The boom times for paperback horror novels were the 1980s and 1990s, and right next to bus station bookstore perennials Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and Stephen King, who might serve as these writer's more successful patron saint. Here, among these books were dozens of evil canine also-rans, a pack of not-quite-Cujos, not to mention psychic tots that more than resemble Danny Torrance, and post-Pennywise scary clowns. But these were also books that were a bit too pulpy and trashy for the King -- think Satanic orgies, demonic babies eating their way out of cursed mothers, and incestuous gothic tales to make V. C. Andrews blush.Read More
To call Stephen King's novel "IT" a masterpiece may be hyperbolic, but I think I'm going to say it anyway. King has. of course, written novels that had a clearer through-line, which cohered more or better, or which were altogether subtler. But King once said that that "It" was, for him, a king of grand unifying thesis of his career, one which was "the summation of everything I had learned and done in my whole life up to that point". Thus, the novel is both the end of and the summing up of a stage of King's career, but also of his life experiences, especially as a scared, bike-riding kid in the mid-century Maine, all sticky mouth and chocolate-fingered -- feeling like an outsider, lusting innocently after the girl next door, and battling the scary clown we call adulthood.
As such, its an idiosyncratic portrait of a time and place made even more so by King's then-contemporary cocaine habit. As he vacuumed massive quantities of the substances off of his writing desk, he pounded out the 1000+ pages that constitute its well-endowed length. There are plenty of elements of the book too weird to describe with any sense: the cosmic battle between Pennywise and the turtle who puked out the universe, for instance, or the truly bizarre kid-orgy that everyone who's ever read it will surely remember.
The 2017 film adaptation of "It" is both a pretty faithful adaptation of parts of the book, and a dramatic rearrangement of the book's elements. For one, the setting in time has changed from the 1950s (the original novel taking place between the Losers Club's childhood in the 1950s and their 1980s adulthood) to the 1980s, although the film's 80s references are limited to a few songs on the soundtrack and a theatrical marquis advertising Lethal Weapon 2 and Batman. The temporal rearrangement doesn't change the story much so much as it makes it seem timely in a post-"Stranger Things" world. After all, the 80s are so hot right now.
So if Stephen King's novel represents the distillate left over after boiling down 30 years of horror, "It" (2017) might be said to exemplify the horror trends of our new century so far, including: A.) the idea, now enjoying currency after "The Conjuring" and its ensuing wave of sequels and spin-offs made bazillions, that everything was scarier in decades past (see also "Ouija 2", Rob Zombie's movies, even stuff that just feel like 80s movies, like "It Follows"), B.) the tendency to highlight horrific imagery and atmosphere over plot, and C.) a weird mix of dread and nostalgia. The result is a movie every bit as idiosyncratic as the original novel, but less personal and more of a pastiche.
The kids are good, sometimes even great, and the adult actors acquit themselves nicely despite being broad types. And Bill Skarsgard, while standing on the shoulders of Tim Curry, does a pretty darn good Pennywise, although not quite as blissfully ridiculous as Curry's. The Pennywise scenes, in which the Losers encounter their fears personified, are all either the best or the worst scenes in the movie, depending on your taste, while the sequence of the Losers exploring the local haunted house is fun and inventive enough to invite comparisons with the 1980s "House", or even the Hooper/Spielberg "Poltergeist".
Like the tv movie original and the lunatic novel it is based on, the 2017 "It" is best enjoyed after surrendering to it's potent, flawed brew of sometimes genius, sometimes just weird elements. Whether It: Chapter Two, the sequel which will presumably deal with the adult portion of the book, will be as appealing remains to be seen (and if you're anything like me, you remember the kid sections of the novel and tv movie far better than the adult part).
But regardless, "It" (2017) now ranks and one of the better, and more respectful, King adaptations and if you watch it, you just might find yourself afloat on tides of well-crafted, pleasantly familiar horror nostalgia.
Though a lot of folks smarter than myself have argued, one way or the other, as to whether or not "writer's block" actually exists, I tend to think it does. Not the least before I periodically suffer long fits of it several times a year.
Its the kind of thing that makes you feel some real ennui, because I'm the kind of person who has said, aloud if not to a person, that all I really want to do is be allowed to write. If its true that we're all given one thing at which we're better than everything else, I think mine would be writing. This is not to say, of course, that I'm better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Nabokov, or you, or R.L. Stine, or anyone at all. Its only to say that of all the things I try to do (sleep, occasionally exercise, talk to people, do math, balance my checkbook, connect with someone or something), writing is the one which I do with the most success, which is: maybe a little.Read More
About 4/5 of the way through A Cure for Wellness, Gore Verbinski’s nearly two and a half hour long horror epic, it becomes clear that there will not be a satisfactory resolution to the many threads and set ups teased earlier in the film. Certainly, the film is beautiful looking, in an ugly kind of way. But amidst a miasmatic soup of sea greens and handsomely framed, symmetrical shots, the film seemingly becomes bored with its own mysteries. Eventually, it wanders into another story entirely. What had been a psychological horror mystery about a mysterious clinic offering obscure treatments develops into the territory of rote gothic horror.
It is an endemic problem for horror narratives; just look at Stephen King.Read More