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Neural Download #1 : "It"

The latest cinematic offering based on a Stephen King novel is the eagerly awaited movie IT released in early Sept.  Most adaptations of King’s work quite honestly suck and are mostly unwatchable. This version of IT is a notable exception. I’ve been a King a fan since I saw the movie CARRIE (another decent adaptation) and quickly ran out to buy the book. Since then, I’ve read most all of his books with only a few disappointments (INSOMNIA put me to sleep). Over the years, I’ve gone to movie after movie and sat through countless TV miniseries that miss the magic King achieves with the written word-my high hopes for a tour du force cruelly dashed on the rocks of shlock.

This dilemma has bewildered me but I think I’ve finally arrived at a fairly simple answer. The very elements that make King’s books so popular are missing from the movie or TV versions. While he is known as a horror master, above all else Stephen King is a great storyteller who creates believable, multi-dimensional characters that you either root for or against with passion. In short, the producers of the movie versions miss the essence of the story because they rely on the horrific elements (or sadly just King’s reputation) to carry the story and neglect the character development.

The newest version of IT avoids the afore mentioned pratfalls. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, a group of misfit kids bands together to fight an evil clown named Pennywise (brilliantly and viciously played by Swedish actor Bill Sarsgard). Pennywise is really just a facade for an ancient evil that returns every 27 years to terrorize the idyllic town of Derry, ME., and eat a few children in the process.  King is at his best when he is writing about kids (Stand By ME) who, for various reasons, don’t quite pass societal muster and let’s be honest, folks, doesn’t that really apply to all of us in some way! While King is an enormously successful writer, I suspect on some deep level he is still the kid who got picked last in gym class. Each of the kids in the story has a different fear that Pennywise exploits.

Most importantly, IT succeeds on an allegorical or story beneath the story level. The kids come to the realization that the fear created by Pennywise is just an illusion. He can be defeated if they remain united in purpose and the true enemy lies within their own psyches. King wrote a non-fiction book many years ago called DANCE MACABRE that dissected the horror genre and the human desire to be scared. In that book he stated, “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify. I’ll go for the gross-out.”

The movie IT accomplishes all three objectives. I saw someone leave hurriedly in the middle of the movie-hyperventilating. I rest my case!

Thanks for reading,

Walt

Neural Download is Walt Schanbel’s bi-monthy blog, and he’s the cohost of the fastest growing podcast on the topic of the paranormal, ocult, unexlained phenomeon: The Metaphysical Connection. Walt is also an accomplished author and educator who resides in Southern New Hampshire.

Have you seen "It?" - What did you think?