10 September 2019

What's Going Down In The Town With The Clown?

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The first It film made more money than a coin-operated vagina and, as such, the sequel was greenlit about as fast as I reckon that coin-operated vagina would likely need cleaning. I'm sure that you saw that first film but in case you've forgotten, it was basically about a gang of young friends that explored the sewers before each attempting to batter an old clown to death with a fucking stick. I guess the clown kind of deserved it though because beyond anything else he was a clown, and the only people to dress like that are either serial killers or out to start a fight with fucking Batman. Like Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, Pennywise the Dancing Clown is a pale ginger freak that seems designed to haunt the nightmares of anybody that encounters him. Unlike Mick Hucknall however, Pennywise isn't satisfied by only murdering a person's ears, preferring instead to terrify them to their very core before eating them and feeding on their fear. Although if you can think of anything more terrifying than being forced to listen to a Simply Red playlist then you obviously have a more horrific imagination than I do. 

The sequel, It: Chapter 2, takes place twenty-seven years later with a new cast of older actors playing the adult versions of the children from that first film. I think that this recasting is a technique that Boyhood director Richard Linklater would call 'cheating'. It's insane how well all of these fucking characters have done for themselves too, considering that their childhood gang was called 'The Losers'. One of them is a successful stand-up comedian, one is a famous writer, and another is a wealthy businessman. I've just looked up one of my childhood friends and although I can't tell what his job is he now looks like a fat coconut and has a baby that looks like a neglected fucking chimp. One of the kids though, Mike, isn't doing too great being that he's the only member of the original gang not to have left town. He's become obsessed with the myth of Pennywise and as such his walls are full of old newspaper clippings and other clues as to how to defeat the clown if he were to ever return. If you can imagine the house of a psychopath that has a circus fetish then that's basically how he's living. Still. He does have a house I guess. The best chance of becoming a homeowner that I have is by chewing up sticks and then spitting the paste into a sort of hovel shape and so I guess I shouldn't slag off Mike's lack of success too much. 

Of course, the clown decides to make a return meaning that Mike is tasked with convincing his old friends to come home to help him fight it. He's kind of like a shit Nick Fury putting together a super-team of anxiety-riddled ex-friends. He's also basically just organising a school reunion but rather than getting drunk and then fingering each other, his friends have got to meet up for the first time in years to kill their surviving sewer monster. Coincidentally 'sewer monster' would also be a pretty good name for that neglected monkey baby that my old fat coconut friend has had. The trouble that these characters face in returning home to defeat the clown is that, other than 'stay at home Mike', they don't have any real memory of their childhood. We're told that the further you are from the town the more your memory of it fades. So like walking in on a co-worker after they've had a wank in the office, the characters don't know entirely what's happened but they have a strong sense that it was probably something horrible. As such a good chunk of the movie is spent with each of them wandering around the town and looking for a sort of token that would remind them of who they are and where they came from. Despite how nostalgic it would make us for our hometowns, I suppose it's worth mentioning that none of these characters returns with a lump of old white dog shit.

As well as being a horror movie, the first It was also a coming of age film in which each of the characters had to face up to some aspect of getting older. By contrast, this new film has more in common with T2:Trainspotting in that it's about a group of now-older characters having to walk back through their past to understand how it defined them. Despite having only come out in 2016 I kind of imagine that most people would need to walk back through the past to even remember that there even was a fucking Trainspotting sequel. However, how the two films do this is remarkably similar with their modern-day plots constantly being interrupted by either flashbacks to the first movie or new footage that was intended to be from around that time. I suppose that the biggest difference is that the demon that they have to fight here isn't heroin but an actual demon, although I suppose that both are capable of making you shit your pants. Despite the town's cinema being shown to be playing A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 the other movie that this reminded me of was actually A Nightmare On Elm Street 6, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. There are obvious comparisons that can be made between Pennywise and Freddy Kruger in that they're evil monsters that use a child's specific fear to prey on them. But both It: Chapter 2 and A Nightmare On Elm Street 6, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare specifically seem to take place in a town in which that monster has won and the surviving residents simply pretend that all is well despite their obvious denial. This is also how I feel about Manchester which was unsurprisingly the birthplace of Mick fucking Hucknall. 

Have you ever heard of a Noodly Naan? Well, you will because it's a meal that I've invented and I highly suspect that it'll one day become my legacy. Basically, it involves throwing a load of noodles, meat, and cheese onto a naan bread, and then covering the whole thing in a fuck tonne of mayo. The secret ingredient is low standards! The way I feel about It: Chapter 2 is kind of similar to how I feel about my Noodly Naan in that it's enjoyable and I felt satisfied by the end but I can't quite shake away the feeling that it might have been a bit of a fucking mess. Not only does the film have way too many characters but by flashing back and forth and through multiple timelines it ends up having to keep more balls up in the air than a juggler at an orgy. The mid-section in which the characters have to separately find their individual memory tokens is essentially an episodic detour into several horror shorts which would be fine if it weren't for how fucking many of them there are. As it drags on, there's no doubt that repetition sets in and with most of these shorts taking place in flashback they're all lacking in tension being that we obviously know the character will survive into adulthood. Thanks to sections like this the film is also almost three fucking hours long with the biggest cause of tension being in my actual bladder as my actual skin began to sweat what I can only assume was actual piss.

But horror movies are rarely given a budget as large as this one and so like a horny dog that's knotting into its partner, we should really latch onto them when we get them. I think the last one to come close was A Cure For Wellness which was a bit crap but still deserved praise for the originality of having Jason Isaacs do a comedy German accent as half of his face slides off and he runs about shoving eels up people. It: Chapter 2 is clearly a better film than that was and actually has one of the more intense openings that I've seen in a horror movie for a while. It starts at one of those funfair type things in which visitors walk below the bright lights of a Ferris wheel with the candy floss and cuddly toys that they've won at the various coconut shy-type stalls. The scene ends though with two men leaving together and then finding themselves the victims of a near-unwatchable homophobic attack. Of course, this is metaphorical of the town in which the film takes place as the superficial all-American setting is a simple cover for much darker horrors. But this kind of funfair imagery is as culturally seeped in nostalgia as we all might have for our own childhood. So as well as being a pretty blunt way of showing how the horror has grown up from the previous movie it also highlights the theme of going back to discover a darkness that was always really there. Also shit... I just thought. A coconut shy? Maybe that's what my old friend with the neglected monkey looking baby is doing for a living these days. 

I don't think I've mentioned yet either but one of the main actors in this movie is Bill Hader who along with everybody else is pretty fucking brilliant. But recently he's opened up about the battle with anxiety that he's been fighting since childhood. In keeping with this idea of finding the shit-smeared reality behind our rose-tinted spectacles, it occurred to me that if Pennywise previously represented the anxiety of getting older then it only seems logical that here he represents the anxieties that we carry on through from childhood. Not that kids will have any time to develop anxieties these days considering how busy we keep with their daily school shootouts. This idea seems to be backed up by how the clown harasses these adults by playing on things that might not even be relevant to them anymore. The fat kid from the first movie is now as buff as fuck and yet Pennywise still upsets him by calling him 'fat boy'. Sadly for Pennywise I was never a fat kid and I can't think of any other childhood traumas that I might have and so if he wanted to play on my adult insecurities I suppose he'd have to taunt me about my massive, massive penis. Yep. That'll be it. If any attractive ladies are reading this it would definitely be my massive penis which is something that I definitely really have.

When talking about his own real-life anxieties, Hader went on to explain that it was only conquered when he realised that it was something that would never actually go away. Rather than trying to defeat it with force he decided to befriend it by treating it as just one extra voice that could be reasoned with and not the primary one that had been dominating him. Pennywise and anxiety are both bullies that thrive off you feeling shit and can easily be defeated when you realise that their only power is in upsetting you. This is also true of my own piece of shit step-mother but I don't think that the kids here will be able to defeat the dancing clown by having their Dad divorce it. Nor am I saying that the movie ends with the children having befriended the clown, although that certainly wouldn't have been impossible considering how may strange turns this film takes. I can understand why a lot of people might not like this movie and I'm left with several lingering issues myself. Did the sub-plot with the bully go anywhere? Sorry, who was gay? There were native Americans doing what now? So that guy is just flat out fucking his own Mum now, is he? But it's filled with imagery and performances that will no doubt become iconic to the genre. It might be a jumble of ideas but that's still an improvement of the average horror movie which, like Simply Red, appear to be aimed at fucking idiots. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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