Re-do of Stephen King’s “It” manages to frighten and rock out

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New in theaters is a re-make of Stephen King’s “It.” The horror movie is based on the novelist’s 1986 novel of the same name. What some viewers might find is that the “horror” comes from within the characters, and an era-appropriate soundtrack is used throughout.

Stephen King standards

The new version of it is directed by Andy Muschietti. The setting, storyline and even the characters, are classic King creations. “It” is set in Derry, Maine. Audiences familiar with King’s work will recall that a number of the writer’s fiction works are set in his home state of Maine. The story involves kids who are pitted against their social environment. This is standard for King; “Carrie,” and “Christine” are other popular examples of this.

The youths in “It” are pitted against their school peers, and the clown of the title who offers them their worst nightmares. King’s characters tend to be loners. In “It” the outsiders call themselves “Losers” yet, they are endearing, and moviegoers can’t help but cheer for them.

Outsider kids is one trope that King uses best. “It” is no exception. The audiences watch characters figure out the evil clown’s angle, and work to defeat him. However, that defeat seems temporary because an additional chapter is slated for 2019.

The setting and the characters’ clothes and musical tastes are fairly standard for the late 1980s, when the story is set. The next chapter will pick up 27 years in the future– when the adult versions of the kids will likely have to fight their fears again.

Stephen King and what is “scary”

Like in so many of his works, in “It,” King shows audiences what they find frightening. People familiar with King’s biography will remember that he wrote most of “It” while high. The grotesque visions that are replicated on the page and onscreen are largely straight out of King’s drug-laced imagination. That’s fine. The story works, but not in a cheap way. Just like the characters have to earn their triumph, audiences have to learn what constitutes “scary” in the world presented to them.

“It” shows audiences that having a missing child is a particular kind of terror. The not-knowing traumatizes people. As a result, they either obsess over the lost child, or assume that the child is dead so  they can move on. The movie does not offer audiences funeral scenes or anything of the sort to show the families receiving closure.

Puberty is posited as a kind of terror, too. It happens to kids at different times; it changes their moods and their bodies. After the female lead buys feminine hygiene products, her bathroom at home becomes blood-soaked. The scene recalls the prom scene in “Carrie.” Her dad, however, cannot see the blood. Only her new friends can and they help her clean up.

Parents are even illustrated to be a kind of nightmare. Beverly’s father is her fear come to life, and even the mom who appears to be kind, if suffocating, is shown to have a darker side.

Music and Stephen King’s “It”

The more than one dozen songs that comprise the soundtrack are perfect in their ability to either highlight a fight, or punctuate the humorous moments. For example, when the new kid in town is befriended by Beverly.

Before the kids know what they will mean to each other, she asks  who he is listening to, and lifts his headphones to hear New Kids on the Block.

Later, when the so-called losers are in the new boy’s room, Beverly spots the New Kids on the Block poster on the back of his door. When she points to it, the band’s music plays, but only Beverly and the new kid can hear it.

A rock fight that pits the so-called “losers” against their cooler, heavy metal-loving peers, is punctuated by aggressive music by Anthrax. One of the “cool” kids is wearing a Metallica t-shirt. All of it works to set the scene’s tone, and makes the movie more realistic.

When the nerdy boys watch Beverly sunbathe in her underwear, “Bust a Move” by Young MC plays, and it is a funny undercurrent for their nervous expressions.

Moody, atmospheric songs by The Smiths, The Cure, XTC, Siousxie and the Banshees, The Cult, and several others, populate the movie’s soundscape.

The music works to make the characters and the story real. This reality adds to the overall “creep” factor, or adds humor to the lighter moments, depending on the song, which make the movie even scarier.

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