My biggest fear is shitting myself in public. It’s not irrational. I have stomach problems. Earlier today I was in serious danger of soiling myself on the train, but luckily it gurgled into nothing more than a slightly wet fart, which I unintentionally propelled into a child’s face. Applying the premise of It – a demonic clown reincarnation of Jimmy Saville who terrifies his prey by transforming into their biggest fear – to myself, I would presumably be chased by a giant pair of underwear, dripping with shameful effluent. That would scare me shitless.
Without a hovering mass of faecal incontinence, however, this new adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel had very little effect on me. “These kids deserve to be brutally slaughtered,” I thought to myself as they allowed themselves to be separated in a tetanus nightmare house, having only just agreed that they should stick together at all costs. Frustrated and far from scared, I was excitedly anticipating their mutilation, like I was waiting for an Amazon package to arrive.
That’s what happens in horror films, isn’t it? The characters somehow always end up wandering down corridors on their own, a cat makes them jump, and then the real scare comes in the form of a makeup-wearing paedophile with fangs. And that’s exactly why It is not scary: it’s full of the same old horror tropes that only seem to work on gerbils masquerading as grown adults. And pussies.
It is clearly better-made than the 1990 mini-series, in the sense that the overall experience won’t make you dyspraxic, but the image of Tim Curry’s clown luring children into his sewage drain will probably last longer than anything that happens in this new adaptation, primarily because he looks like Tim Curry. Playing the demonic circus freak now is Bill Skarsgård, who, despite having a suitably creepy face, is often encrusted with special effects that make his entire head open up to reveal a set of enormous teeth, like a woefully maintained minge. It’s not as scary when it’s computer-generated.
But It is ultimately saved by its teenage ensemble, who quickly and incredibly accurately determine that their Back To The Future town is terrorised every 27 years by Pennywise The Dancing Clown – just another entertainer who feeds on the fears of children. And then molests them. Without even the help of a friendly cop figure, the kids must all overcome their individual horrors, which for Sophia Lillis’s Beverly happens to be obscenely heavy period flow.
It’s a shame that this defeating of fears is conveyed by having the characters walk from one room to another, with the jumps queued up like waves of enemies in an 8-bit game. With no genuine surprises, I can confidently say that I have had more terrifying sessions on the toilet.
The film’s opening, for example, which sees a child playing in the rain, floating his paper boat down the gutter and eventually discovering Pennywise in a drain, has nothing on the traumatic episode I had in the pub the other day. On my third round of wiping, I accidentally pushed the toilet paper back inside the dispenser, which meant I had to waddle over to the next cubicle. That dispenser was stuck too. In the time it had taken me to check, I was ready to spray again. The only option was to finish on my original toilet and wait for the subsequent carnage to dry and crust over. They should put that in It: Chapter 2.