Friday, September 8, 2017

IT May Change How Hollywood Views Horror

GAME CHANGER!! We've heard this phrase pitched around before, usually by marketing folks pushing their own titles with the hopes and dreams of 1 thousand creatives behind them. A lot of the time, we see little real change in the business model Hollywood feels comfortable with after one of these new titles rocks the Rotten Tomato-Meter. After this weekend, that might not be the case.

Last night I hit my local Hazlet NJ Cinemark theater and was surprised to find IT was taking up 4 theaters on its preview night. It's rare that any movie would get 4 theaters, much less a horror film, and certainly not on preview night when supposedly, only the die hards come out to watch. This was surely a sign that the theater chains had a ton of faith in the marketing behind IT, and theater chains don't do anything on BLIND faith. There must have been strong numbers behind their decision. It turns out their gamble was a winning strategy and the opening night numbers tell the tale:

- According to BoxOfficeMojo, the highest grossing box office weekend for an R rated horror film belongs to Paranormal Activity 3 with $52 million.

- at 3,500 locations, IT took home $13.5 million Thursday night, outpacing Paranormal Activity 3 by 5 million. It is well on it's way to shattering PA3's record.

The significance of an R rated movie doing big business is obvious. To a larger extent, the significance of a horror movie raking in this sort of cash is obvious as well, but the lessons IT will be teaching are less about capitalizing on the fears of your average movie goer and more about the quality of film Hollywood chooses to put out.

To be sure, IT has its share of jump scares and nasty, drippy moments we'd expect from any horror film, but the finely crafted Stephen King tale offers much more. Within the pages of King's now legendary book, we relive the terrors of being a fairly vulnerable kid, both in our active imaginations and at the threatening hands of those who would knock us around for the fun of it. It's terror from those all too dark spots in the basement as well as the side streets of the city that give you a chill up your back as if something inside you is screaming "you are not supposed to be here". It's not only the creaking sound a house makes when settling that causes you to whip around, searching for the source, but the betrayal of trust from an adult who takes away innocence and leaves behind a cold heart.

While this new telling of King's novel is beautifully horrific with clearly visible monsters that are sure to haunt viewers for years to come, it also offers an amazing level of humanity ...something we just don't feel in a lot of modern horror. IT breaks the mold of your average horror film, hearkening back to the Universal Monster tales where you experienced love and loss and a very relatable pain, all wrapped around that ever encroaching dread and looming above it all, larger than life, the monster itself... not hiding in shadow or alluded to by CGI trickery. Just standing before you, terrifying on its own artistic merits.

As always, any victory at the box office for horror is cause for celebration, but it is my hope that Hollywood learns something more from the success of IT. You can scare someone half to death and still tell a full and provocative story with zero pandering and a timeless feel. Audiences are ready for something more. It's time we give it to them.

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