‘It’ Has Been A Banner Year For R-Rated Horror Movies

Senior Pop Culture Editor
09.13.17

WARNER BROS/UNIVERSAL/Focus World

Despite only having been released four days ago, It is already the fifth highest-grossing R-rated horror movie of all-time. Andres Muschietti’s big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s classic creepy clown novel, which took in an incredible $123.4 million over the weekend, immediately topped Paranormal Activity, Interview with the Vampire, and Scream, among literally thousands of other titles, and should best The Conjuring ($137.4 million), The Blair Witch Project ($140.5 million), Get Out ($175.4 million), and maybe even The Exorcist ($232.9 million) before the end of its box office run.

It‘s success is the result of a confluence of events — post-Stranger Things ’80s nostalgia; a hunger for a mid-budget, crowd-pleasing horror movie; a clever marketing campaign; King’s endorsement — that came together perfectly, and it’s also a really good movie. But it’s not even the best R-rated horror film of 2017.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a knock on It. It is everything supposedly wrong with Hollywood — an unoriginal idea, reliance on nostalgia, an obvious setup to a sequel (or Chapter Two) — done mostly right. The set pieces are well staged, the child actors are unanimously not annoying (that is the greatest compliment you can pay a child actor), and Bill Skarsgård’s performance is memorably extravagant without drifting into camp. It‘s not particularly scary, but the terror is clever, and director Muschietti and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (who worked on 2016’s gorgeous The Handmaiden) have a keen eye for showing familiar frights in new ways. The opening scene with Pennywise the Clown in the sewer, in particular, is one for the ages.

For all those reasons, and for the Anthrax-set “rock fight” scene, It is the fourth R-rated horror movie released in 2017 that horror fans will still be talking about in 2027. The others: Get Out, It Comes at Night, and Raw.

The first, Jordan Peele’s confident, electrifying directorial debut after cutting his teeth with Keegan-Michael Key on Key & Peele, only gets better with every viewing. Believe me: I wasn’t a huge fan the first time I saw Get Out; I thought it wasn’t scary enough to be a horror movie, or funny enough to be a comedy. It tried, I initially thought, to be too much of both, and suffered for it. But after my third viewing, and a lot of outside reading on visual clues I didn’t have the context to pick up, I began to appreciate its cagey wit and sunken horror. The rumbling Oscar buzz, especially for the screenplay, is not unwarranted.

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