Warning: SPOILERS ahead for IT
A lot of people like to watch horror movies, but fewer people are fans of jump-scares. In fact, for many they’re a hindrance – often used as a cheap trick that startles instead of scares, and can really affect the enjoyment of a movie. Instead of getting sucked into a palpable atmosphere or engrossed in the extended metaphors of a good horror story, viewers are drawn in by moments of manufactured tension before a sudden bang or shrill sound causes a fright. They’re often cheap in thrill and easily one of the less-desirable tropes of modern horror film-making.
As such, sometimes it’s nice to know in advance how jump-scary a film is. It can be an indication of quality – especially within mainstream horror where some franchises are entirely built on hollow frights – and it can also help an audience settle their nerves for the duration, bracing themselves for the sudden violin shriek and accompanying visual.
The new It isn’t as reliant on such devices as it could be. Building off the book, the film is much more a tone piece than many of its contemporaries. The tension is gradual and the imagery intended to be meaningful and memorable, rather than just something to generate some screams in the theater. That said, it’s a horror film made by a major studio in the 21st century, so of course there are a few moments where things are ramped up to get a reaction. Here’s a guide to some of the less subtle scares, so you know when to brace yourself for impact.
Patrick In The Sewer
A little while after Ben manages to get away from his bullies, Patrick – searching for Ben – stumbles onto one of the sewer pipelines that Pennywise inhabits. Arriving only moments before Ben and the other Losers have left, Patrick begins to look through the cavernous pipe, tip-toeing his way around. It’s as predictable a setup as one would imagine, and poor ol’ Patrick – as much of a jerk as he may have been – definitely doesn’t deserve what’s coming to him.
Walking through the grey water of the run-off, he sees some figures ahead of him, one of which sounds like a teenage girl – Betty Ripsom. Taking out his lighter to get a better look, he’s greeted by Betty’s undead face, with a small gaggle of other shambling corpses behind her. Patrick tries to run, but to no avail: Pennywise has got him and there’s nothing he can do about it, him being the first victim that shows us the extent of Pennywise’s power of manipulation.
Little Georgie In The Basement
One of the biggest scenes in the trailers is Bill encountering a ghostly George in his family’s flooded basement. Haunted by the loss of his little brother, Bill is taunted by the illusion to come and float with him (i.e. get eaten by Pennywise.) As Bill is watching Georgie, we see Pennywise’s head rise out of the water and slowly come into view. Bill’s talk with ghost-George escalates before Pennywise goes for the kill – only to be outrun by a not-to-be-fooled-so-easily-Bill.
Bill’s grief over losing George is obviously a big focal point for the film, and thankfully it’s one they resist exploiting. As much as this scene could’ve been exploitative, it holds narrative weight and stands as a good character moment – a jump-scare that really matters, if you will.
It’s no surprise this scene has been the other most heavily used in press for the film, it’s a very chilling piece of cinema. An old camera projector the losers are using to look at a map of Derry starts to malfunction, jumping through all the slides loaded into it. A recurring image of Bill’s family before George’s vanishing is shown over and over and over as his mother slowly morphs into Pennywise the Dancing Clown, watching them through the photographs.
As the pictures change, the kids start messing with the projector to turn it off. Getting desperate, they knock the appliance to the floor, zooming in on Pennywise’s head at an obtuse angle. Suddenly, a giant Pennywise crawls out of the projection, stomping through Bill’s garage towards the gang before dissipating as quickly as he appeared. Shocked and rattled, the children regroup, Bill leading the charge that they have to face the circus menace once and for all if they want any of this to end, one of Pennywise’s biggest moves towards them ironically becoming the catalyst for Its downfall.
Like the novel, It is a movie that wants you to be scared by the concepts therein. It’s about gradual terror and suspense and mood rather than having the audience jump out of their seats. The characters and their chemistry is given greater weight than their fears. The moments when it does use jump-scares and other production tropes are still meaningful, because these people and what they’re facing is meaningful. It’s a horror movie about preparing to face fear, and now, maybe you might be too.
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