Beyond B.O., by Tyler Smith
This weekend’s biggest new releases, American Assassin and mother!, are not expected to topple It from its box office perch, as the horror film continues to rake in money in its second weekend. It’s hard to believe that It is performing this well. Horror movies tend not to break box office records. But, of course, It isn’t exactly a standard horror movie, which can turn off mainstream viewers with excessive gore and a nihilistic tone. While much of It works very well – specifically the talented young ensemble – one gets the strong scent of market testing and smirking studio approval.
While ostensibly a new adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, it is clear that this film was meant to appeal primarily to those who grew up watching the TV miniseries. For example, the emphasis on Pennywise as primary villain instead of merely a representation of a larger evil speaks to the studio’s desire to make this a concrete, understandable horror movie, with very few traces of the more cosmic, intangible themes of King’s novel. That and the specifically lovable nature of the cast – which echoes last year’s surprise hit Stranger Things (itself inspired by King’s work, among others) – speaks to It being seen by the studio as more than a simple horror movie. It was engineered to attract the largest possible audience, through its aggressive marketing, exploitative nostalgia, and simple ideas.
Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. Everybody likes to make money; studios perhaps most of all. But it certainly goes a long way to explain the success – and likely staying power – of what some might have considered just another horror film. It certainly is not only that. It is a product, tested, approved, and sold.