I am not a fan of horror movies. This is not due to my fear, though I am scared easily, but it’s more about the lack of good horror concepts. As a writing major, I have seen too many horror movies that rely on cheap jump scares and are absent of a simple story arc or narrative structure.
Despite all of the high-budget special effects, a movie is still a visual story and an interesting story must be told. Recently, two thrilling movies were released exactly one week apart from each other. “Mother!” by Darren Aronofsky and “It,” the remake of the classic film based off the Stephen King novel of the same name, promised to kick off Halloween a little early this year. I knew Oscar-nominee Darren Aronofsky from my obsession with “Black Swan” as well as Stephen King from his terrifying and award-winning, block sized novels.
But when I came to actually seeing these films, I was both utterly terrified and completely disappointed. “Mother!” exceeded expectations. The vague trailer leaves audiences walking into the theater unsure of just what their getting into. Myself, and the audience around me, entered smiling and chattering but left in silence. It is difficult to describe the terrifying experience of seeing “Mother!” except that it is, in fact, an experience. It is a downward spiral from a beautiful home and couple to unwelcome strangers, comments on the “woman’s role” and fame, all of which leads into a religious apocalypse.
Every aspect of this movie makes it a well-crafted story, such as the entire film being confined to the inside of the house, the social and religious commentary, the camera shots as the audience follows Jennifer Lawrence fearfully walking around the house, brilliant dialogue, narrative structure and more. I could discuss this movie for paragraphs but I will save you from spoilers.
On the other side of things, I had been watching “It” trailers for months before the movie was released. As opposed to “Mother!”, “It” had a trailer that was more terrifying than the actual movie. Let’s begin with Pennywise, the iconic clown. Pennywise is a flat character without a story, a motive or really anything other than his makeup and special effects. Thus, Pennywise is lacking in the fear category. Pennywise isn’t the only flat character. Most of the characters are portrayed as stereotypical versions of 80s, all-American kids, which is disappointing given the extreme detail that Stephen King provides for his characters in his novels.
The iconic phrase, “You’ll float too!” is screamed throughout the movie trailer and haunted my dreams when I first heard it. Yet, in the movie it fades into the background amidst special effects of kids’ limbs being eaten off. As for the narrative structure, there is a at least a story arc that is carried through the entire film unlike most horror movies. A+ for at least telling a story, although Stephen King is really the one who we should thank for this. The bottom line is “It” is not scary despite the terrifying content they had to work with from the book. Unfortunately, if you want to go see “It” to see a horror movie that will scare you, you’re probably better off just watching the trailer.
Movies should be an experience as well as tell a successful story. “Mother!” not only succeeds in both of these categories, but it leaves the audience in a terrified and paranoid silence. Ready to kick off October with a thriller? Go see “Mother!” You will leave the movie contemplating religion, fame, relationships and humankind as whole.