My name is Howard Hachey, and I hate reviews. Doesn’t matter if it’s on music, movies, art, food, or literature; it’s all shit.
“Oh, C’mon, Howie. You can’t seriously mean that? As an 'author' you must give and receive reviews all the time, right? Everyone reads reviews. They are, at most times, honest and insightful ways to get information about things you aren't quite sure about. The precautionary buyer needs them. What about that doesn’t jive with you?”
Really, only one thing about it bothers me.
Your opinion on an isolated piece of work (art) that has no real-world attachment to you means exactly this much -- Nothing. You and your friends love Game of Thrones, obsess over it, even. Others don’t. You might think Blade Runner or Metropolis is the best dystopian sci-fi film of all time, others might say Idiocracy. Reasons will vary, but in the end, each party will agree on one fact.
I SAW IT. I WAS THERE. ME. ME. ME.
And by giving long-winded, overly judgmental critiques about this and that, we attempt to chisel off a little crumb of ourselves (our “personality”) to sprinkle onto pieces of work that we’ll never create. The best a “professional” reviewer or critic of any medium can hope for is that their critique will someday overlap, or “piggy-back,” the work in question. Evolving from just some regular jack-off's opinion to a virtual point of reference for anyone looking for a “non-biased” review. Here’s a little tip; if you’re looking for an actual, double-certified, non-biased review of art, don’t bother. There’s no such thing. It’s a myth.
Ugh, I just realized I’m doing a review of reviewers and why they review things so other people will review them. Look, the best way to explain this is also the shortest:
Opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one and they all stink.
With that said, my publisher (Fluky Fiction) asked me to do a review of the 2017 release of the movie IT for some Halloween promo thing. I think the promo is in connection to a horror/sci-fi anthology (When Glints Collide) of which I am featured in. Honestly, my response to this was a hard, “no,” (please see above) to which they said, “Do it, or else.”
“Or else what?”
I want to start off with a little bit of personal history. A little (un)necessary perspective, if you will.
I saw the original miniseries around the age of 9 or 10. And like most kids (I think), I couldn’t finish IT the first time around. Not because of the whopping run time (just over 3-hours), but because of how goddamned scared I was. Already afraid of clowns, I could barely keep my eyes open when Pennywise popped on screen, let alone when he ate some poor kid’s arm or face. But, I was persistent. I made a point to watch the whole thing, from start to finish. As a result, my fear of clowns got bumped up a couple extra notches, but I came out only slightly scarred. I watched the series several more times through my teenage years, no longer scared, but still appreciating the series for its originality. To this day, when the traveling circus comes to town, my thoughts randomly drift to Tim Curry in that shitty skull cap and pancake makeup. I get just the slightest twinge of that old fear. Childhood nostalgia’s annoying like that.
In my early twenties, I finally got around to reading the novel. And, in a way, I wish I hadn’t. The harrowing story that the miniseries had drilled into my head, the creepy, scary moments I thought were so great, shattered once I read the book. The novel IT is a mammoth (over 1100 pages), but not by any means Stephen King’s most dense work. I know that might sound like I’m trying to say that the book is unnecessarily bulky or over-fluffed in content, but I’m not. The opposite applies. In my worthless opinion, IT, the novel, is a masterfully orchestrated, multi-layered brick of literary gold.
I’ll come right out and admit that, yes, I’m biased. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and I know not everyone thinks as highly of his writing as I do. And I’m not here to convert any of you. But, logistically speaking, IT is a horror masterpiece. The pacing and flow in King’s writing is arguably at one of his highest peaks during this novel, ramping up the scares in a way only King seems to know how. Along with no-holds-bar mutilations, terrifyingly real monsters, and an impromptu child sex orgy in the sewer (yup, look it up), the flow of unfiltered imagination and naked emotion just doesn’t stop. King doesn’t traditionally hold back in his books, but IT is something else entirely. It’s raw and passionate, scary but addictive, the ultimate story of a real (and not real) human struggle to conquer fear incarnate. Plus, some clever tie-ins to his other novels (galactic tortoise).
In short, this book grabbed me by the taint and refused let go. Even now, all these years later, whenever the conversation of “scariest” book comes up in conversation amongst friends, IT has been, and probably always will be, at the front of my list. The book seemed to fall into my lap at just the right moment in my life; had I attempted to read it any sooner, I might have an entirely different opinion. I remember feeling sad to see the book end, but was even sadder re-watching the mini-series now that the bar had been raised so high. Even Tim Curry’s timeless performance couldn’t fill the technological setbacks and story boundaries that the mini-series was riddled with. I now knew too much. Had to toss that 1990 version in the “made before its time” pile, right next to Dune and the original Star Trek movies.
Since then, I’ve waited patiently. It’d only be a matter of time before some major movie studio would need an already recognizable franchise for a blockbuster reboot. I prayed the same thing that happened to some of the remakes of King’s earlier adaptations (i.e. Carrie, The Dead Zone) wouldn’t happen to IT.
Flash forward to 2017.
I was initially excited upon hearing the official news of a movie remake, but was very skeptical. The trailer looked good, but I’d been tricked by that before (i.e. Split, Pacific Rim). I tried my best to keep my nose clean, not asking anyone I know about the movie once the premier was well and over, but I caught wind of the general consensuses and couldn’t ignore what I heard:
“IT was great. Very scary.”
Hearing that made me feel even more uncertain; popular opinion usually has a bad track record when it comes to judging popular films (i.e. Transformers, The Hangover, Paranormal Activity… take your pick). Regardless, I had to see for myself.
Needless to say, I was wrong. The consensuses was right.
I saw the new IT and, in my opinion (like it matters), the movie lives up to the hype. All in all, I thought it was a great horror film, probably one of King’s best adaptations to date. Of course, not everyone feels that way, but… you know. To each his own.
Most of the things I thought were lacking in the mini-series were presented full-force in the 2017 film. Great special effects (both CGI and live prop), topnotch directing, editing and scoring; everything I’d wished for had come true.
Everything, but one.
Just like the original mini-series, the 2017 IT had “setbacks.” I don’t mean the continual absence of the graphic child gang-bang that’s depicted towards the end of the book (seriously, look it up) which is understandable to leave out. I can’t see any director getting financed for that project. No, what I was disappointed to see, or not see, was the absence of a very important theme from the novel.
Alright, alright. I know what you’re thinking. Slow your roll. Let me explain my point before you start thumbing me a complaint.
As I interpret it, bigotry (fear) plays a huge role in the novel. Hell, it IS the novel. The character Mike, who happens to be black, is bullied and harassed by Henry and his gang in the book for no reason other than the fact that his skin’s a different color. Yes, all the kids in The Losers Club are misfits and are bullied just like Mike even though they are white, but being losers isn’t what got them bullied in the first place.
That’s where IT steps in.
Part of Mike’s character is that he’s a black youth in rural Maine. Stan, a Jew. Eddie, a sissy. Ben, a fatty. Beverly, an abusive alcoholic for a dad. Bill, a dead little brother and a speech impediment. In case you don’t know, those things can sometimes be problematic for anyone (anywhere), but arguably more so in the Pine Tree State. Outsiders of any kind to these hills are generally not welcomed, even if they were born and raised here. You either run with the grain, or against it. I never got to experience the atmosphere of this during the late 50’s early 60’s, like in the book, but those feelings of paternal inclusion continue to linger.
In fact, one of the early pieces of the novel (first section of Chapter 2) has a short passage about a group of teenagers tossing a gay man off a bridge, where he subsequently drowns to death. This story is based on fact. In Bangor, Maine on July 7th of 1984, a group of teenagers assaulted and harassed an openly homosexual man at gunpoint, then forced him to jump off the State Street Bridge into the Kenduskeag Stream, knowing he couldn’t swim. Note that this is roughly around the same time frame as the story for the 2017 release (‘88-’89). This terrible, but true, dip into reality only hardens the novel's capacity to exist outside of itself, bringing up the level of real fear to the reader.
“Could IT be real?”
In the mini-series, this component isn’t put out into the front-lines, but it’s certainly implied. They couldn’t have characters saying realistic slurs like nigger and kike on t.v. at the time, so that crucial detail took the backseat. I was hoping that real grit from the novel would make its way into the 2017 release, but, no dice. I noticed race is lightly touched on in the new movie (with the exception of The Blackspot) and doesn’t play nearly as much of a role as it should. I’m not saying I want to hear racial slurs just for the fuck of it, but at the same time, I am. Understand that when I read those horrible things in the book, it made me genuinely feel for the characters and their plight, deepening the scope of the story beyond the proverbial monster mash that everyone expects to see. No fairy tale whimsy or kidsy tongue-in-cheek rhetoric here; just the grimy, no bullshit style that real King fans love to read. The interactions between characters in the novel are so realistic, so mindful of individual thoughts and feelings that they could exist outside the page. In here. With us. And in too many ways, they do. To me, that’s some really scary shit that holds its own against all the gore and suspense that clots under the skin of most horror novels (and movies, for that matter).
The 2017 movie almost holds up to the novel in this vein, but not quite. That one crucial human element (or flaw) was missing.
I personally took away from the book that the true product of fear wasn’t the monster (Pennywise/FEAR), but the people he influenced and coerced into feeding him. Bad or good, ignorant or just naive, we all feel fear that seems to come from outside of ourselves. Origins unknown. I’m sure the director, or producers, or King, (or whoever) took a step back from this angle (if I’m not imagining it all) and decided the social climate still wasn’t right for this kind of conversation. I don’t know. Just a guess.
Christ, look at me, big fuckin’ hypocrite going on and on like anything I say actually matters. Sorry, folks.
Let me start over:
“IT was great. Very Scary.”
Howard Hachey was the first horror novelist to sign with Fluky Fiction. Despite his reclusive nature, he is a peach to work with. His debut novel, Ionic Relapse: Book One of The Doll Man Duology, is available on Amazon and in our Etsy shop. Thus far, it has received stunning reviews. Not that reviews matter... right, Howard? ;) Book Two has a tentative release date of August, 2018.
But, Howard isn't just a horror-guy. His psychological novel, Beau, will release April, 2018.
Thank you, Howard, for sending us your review. Your contract remains intact.