OPINION | IT: The real horror is not a killer clown, it’s us
Imagine coming home to a house where you can still smell the fragrance of a loved one who will never come back again, their clothes and belongings are still there, and you feel a deep emptiness as you step inside.
Imagine coming home to a place where you know the demon of bullying stills haunts your mind and you bear the physical scars on your body. Imagine coming home and going straight to the medicine cabinet to pop some pills to ward off a myriad of illnesses.
Imagine coming home and knowing that you will receive abuse and betrayal from a family member. Imagine coming home to absent parents, absent siblings, absent dreams, absent hopes.
Imagine coming home with the thought of heading out again in the morning to the daily routine of a job, paying bills, eating the same dreary food, and ultimately waiting for death to catch up and release you.
The horrors that lie waiting for us all, in some shape or form, are far more terrifying than some supernatural demon in the guise of a killer clown.
Stephen King taps into the horror that human beings inflict upon each other, and this new film is unflinching in the way it depicts human cruelty. The children at the heart of the story are beautifully realised. The best stories always weave memorable characters that engage and resonate with the audience.
A story should serve the characters. Too often in modern cinema, the plots become the core and the characters remain on the periphery. The heart and soul are cut out, and the film ends up empty and emotionless.
This film allows the audience to spend time with the characters. Their insecurities, fears, squabbles and friendships become a central part of the narrative.
Horror films, due to the nature of the genre, have a pace and momentum that quickly cuts to the chase. The thrills, suspense, rollercoaster rush, and the paranoia drives the films along at a brisk pace. This film, however, dares to slow down to concentrate on the characters, and is now one of the longest Horror Films released in Hollywood in recent years. It is all the better for it. It makes the horror even more tragic and disturbing whenever it creeps in.
Early on in the film there are some very startling images that show how the film medium, if handled by a true artist, can be used to craft visual poetry. A scene from a slaughterhouse, where the sheep are being led into a pen to be stunned, this brutal scene immediately cuts to students running out of classrooms and heading out of the school into the big wide slaughterhouse of life.
The metaphor is stark and as the herd of kids leave the school building for the summer break they all run to the bins lined up outside where they discard all of their exercise and text books with glee. Education has no value, being cooped up in classrooms has no meaning, being ordered around by adults has no meaning; the only thing that matters to them is the fresh air and the freedom to run wild without fear.
The adults in this metaphysical tale are somnambulistic monsters who seem to inhabit another time and place to that of the children. They rarely mingle or listen to the kids, and if they do it’s usually to bark an order or to inflict some pain; they fail to see or hear what the children have experienced. Thus, in a sense, the children are alone in a dark and hostile world.
The world will divide them, drive them apart with fear, and then dine on their innocence. The payment for existence in this world means paying a price in pain at some point. That’s real horror that all of us are familiar with.
This is a rare example of a Horror film that deals with human trauma that many kids face on a daily basis. The prejudice, the bullying, the alienation, and having their young voices silenced. The narrative has multiple layers and it dares to explore themes that many people have experienced yet remain silent due to the fear of being labelled or misjudged. It is very poignant and makes you realise the transient nature of this life.
One of the key messages in the film is this: regardless of who you are, whether you’re fat, Jewish, Black, have a disability, or even if you’re a girl, as long as your shared humanity remains united by friendship no darkness can ever tear your world apart.
The real horror is not a killer clown, it’s us.