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A Look Into The Most Controversial and Unfilmable Scene In ‘It’

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 8, 2017, but for obvious reasons, we’ve decided to spotlight it again. 

Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s It has just arrived in theaters, and by all accounts the legendary story of seven kids battling an immortal avatar of evil has been reconstructed nearly flawlessly on the silver screen. However, there are several scenes in the source material that defy the very laws of a visual medium like film, and at least one that is unfilmable for a different reason altogether.

The scene in question is the one that people are generally referring to when they use the phrase “that scene.” So why all the pussy-footing around? What is it about this scene that has fans of It so close-mouthed? Well, to get into that, we’re going to have to unpack the scene a bit to explore what makes it so troubling and disturbing, which we’ll do in a quick moment here.

First though, a brief warning, as the scene I’m about to describe may be uncomfortable reading for some folks (hell, I’d be more concerned if a description of this scene didn’t make you uncomfortable, but either way, you’ve been warned).

Like this paper boat, we’re about to go to a very bad place that we can’t come back from.

Okay, still here? Then buckle up, because the scene we’re talking about involves a disturbing sexual encounter that the seven main characters of the story share in the sewers below Derry, Maine, where It takes place. Now as odd as this might sound already, there are a number of troubling issues that serve to further cloud the scene in question and its place in the plot of It. First of all, the kids in question truly are kids. At the tender age of 11, a group sexual encounter in the sewers of all places (because nothing gets the old libido going like a dark, slimy place that reeks of human waste) is not something that most readers were expecting to run into in this tale of an endless battle against an unstoppable evil force. Second — and even more troubling — is that there’s only one girl among their number: Beverly. So all six of the boys take a turn, one after the other, losing their virginity to Beverly, at her suggestion. That’s right, there’s a good reason no one wants to talk about what is essentially a gang bang involving pre-teens.

So, if you haven’t read the novel and are wondering why the scene has such an infamous reputation, you can consider the matter essentially closed…except for one thing, of course, that might still be lingering in your mind, even with full knowledge of the events: why is this scene in the story to begin with?

Well, a mild spoiler follows, so here is your warning to that effect… Okay, once again, if you’re still here, let’s continue.

So, uh, how should we get ourselves out of this pickle?

After the kids defeat the monster, It, they find themselves lost in the sewers of Derry, unable to find their way out. It’s at this point that Beverly makes the suggestion that they can all lose their virginity to her in order to bond them all together again so that they will have the strength to escape…or something.

So yeah, sex magic I guess? In all seriousness, Stephen King himself has explained the scene as a sort of metaphor for the end of childhood, and that having faced their greatest fears, the Loser’s Club — as the central cast tend to call themselves — are entering adulthood. Still, even with that flimsy caveat, the scene is far more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s no surprise that it won’t feature in Cary Fukanaga’s screenplay, just as it was an easy cut for the original It miniseries.

I mean, even if we wanted to play devil’s advocate for a moment, how exactly would one go about filming a scene like this? First of all, you’d have to stop your horror film DEAD, right after the climax of the film. Then you’d have to film six more climaxes (sorry) that absolutely no one wants to see.

Did someone just say pre-teen sex scene? Don’t worry, Larry Clark will find a way to make it work. Just look at that face! If that’s not the expression of perseverance, I don’t know what is!

Really though, try to imagine it! It’s utterly insane when you even begin to look at the logistics of it. First you’d have to make it appear as though 6 boys and 1 girl were naked, without them actually being naked. Then you’d have to carefully film around the scene, while parents and protective services observed, to simulate 6 separate acts of sex between minors. Look, if this were Larry Clark or Woody Allen directing, maybe they’d find a way to make it work, but for any reasonable person, there’s no way this scene ever makes it past the cutting room floor, or even the eyes of a script editor for that matter.

But hey, don’t let that deter you from exploring the source material for It, should you enjoy the film, as it’s truly a fantastic read, even with the overwhelming weirdness of the above scene lingering in your gray matter. Either way, whether you decide to plunge into Stephen King’s sizable 1138-page odyssey, or whether this article will be your only trip down that particular rabbit hole, you’ll definitely be wishing you could forget about “that scene,” one way or another.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. starberry697

    October 18, 2017 at 3:36 am

    Why is this person writing about film when they can’t even type “pedophelic sex scenes in films” into google. its being done, see Christina Rikki in Bastard out of Carolina which has violent rape of a preteen character. The Boys of Saint Vincent has several rape scenes between an adult man and a boy. There are others (I feel like Thirteen comes close.)

    • Mike Worby

      February 8, 2018 at 8:12 pm

      If you think the scene in question was cut for another reason other than it being uncomfortable and disturbing to witness, and not terribly vital to the story, I’d love to hear it. For the record, I’ve seen plenty of films that depict the sort of thing you’re describing, but I still don’t see your point.

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‘Rojo’ Takes Carefully Composed Aim at Argentina’s Murky Past

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Getting off to a creepy and crackling start, Benjamín Nasihtat’s Rojo can’t quite live up to its opening promise while admirably trying to navigate a muddied maze of vague suspicion around a small town in Argentina during the 1970s before the coup. Still, though the story bumps into a few dead ends before finally emerging into some light at the finish, exquisite compositions — punctuated by occasional bursts that mimic the time period’s cinematic style — and a quietly simmering performance from star Darío Grandinetti manage to keep things engaging enough throughout this low-key thriller.

Rojo vacation

After a mysterious opening shot in which an abandoned house in a pleasant neighborhood is calmly looted by various locals, Rojo directs our attention to a cozy, upscale restaurant where respectable lawyer Claudio sits alone, waiting for his wife, courteously acknowledged by other similarly well-off patrons. He draws the ire of another customer, who abrasively chides Claudio for occupying a table when he is not ready to order, thus depriving those who are. Pretending to take the higher road, Claudio gives up his seat, but can’t resist also giving this rude young man a lecture of his own — one that despite its refined vocabulary, smacks of hostile superiority. From there, an altercation ensues that will not only haunt Claudio for the rest of the film, but also stand for a certain societal rot that took over a country.

The sequence is chilling in its callousness, the way in which a person is removed from a restaurant — and a community — with nary a blink of an eye; soon, everyone is back to chattering away, enjoying their meals as if a mere pest had entered and was quickly shooed away. Beneath their civilized faces, however, their are subtle signs of deep unease. Rojo expertly creates a tension here that it will then go on to very slowly dilute, as more and more tangents are given prominence in an attempt to reinforce already clear themes without shedding new light on them.

Rojo locker room

The paranoia and guilt lurking beneath nearly every interaction in Rojo serves to bring attention to the various disappearances that take place and are alluded to throughout the story. That fear of being “disappeared” without a trace is a clear reference to the “los desaparecidos” — political dissidents from the era who either fled the country or were kidnapped and murdered in the wake of a military coup that wanted to silence opposition. The premise that one can suddenly say the wrong thing and summarily be erased from society while everyone looks the other way is an inherently scary one, and that pervading atmosphere goes a long way toward making Rojo highly watchable.

However, once the general idea is firmly and skillfully established, Rojo seems to have little place else to go with it. A subplot involving selling the house from the prologue is mildly interesting in how it portrays the opportunistic behavior that capitalized on atrocity, but the process eventually fizzles out. American rodeo cowboys pay a visit, alluding to U.S. involvement during the coup, but not much else. A trip to the beach perhaps shows a bit of the pressure that gets to those who have had to turn a blind eye for so long, but little else is garnered outside a stylish depiction of a solar eclipse that washes the screen symbolic red. A teenage romance seems like it’s reaching for something important to say about dominance and jealousy, but can’t come up with more than another disappearance — and of a character who might as well be a nobody regardless, for the few minutes they are on screen.

A missing doctor, a magician’s act, a church confrontation; the power of the vanishings is undermined somewhat by their frequency. But maybe that’s the point — that we all can be desensitized to injustice.

Rojo teens

Still, whether or not one finds meaning, it’s hard to take one’s eyes off such gorgeously composed images as Nasihtat has crafted here. Though its plot often seems to lack focus, Rojo still emits a feeling of pinpoint exactitude through pictures. Nearly every frame is a joy to examine, creating a palpable sense that angles and staging have been meticulously prepared to convey important information key to unlocking the script’s mysteries. Restrained use of zooms and freeze frames also help inject some period style into the proceedings, and can be effectively startling. Holding it all together though is the repressed performance of Darío Grandinetti, who masterfully finds the quiet fear and hypocrisy in a certain kind of ‘upright’ citizen. As the various pressures grow (including from a big-city TV investigator played by Alfredo Castro), will he be able to hold it together?

The payoff is a bit anti-climactic, but Rojo has already been trending that way since the beginning. Nevertheless, it does conclude on a more explicit note, and there is a great visual pleasure to be had from simply watching this story unfold in such sharp, capable filmmaking hands.

‘Rojo’ is now available on digital formats from 1844 Entertainment.

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‘Queen of Hearts’ is a Frank and Difficult Look at Sexual Desire

Trine Dyrholm is typically brilliant in Danish film ‘Queen of Hearts’ — playing an older woman embarking on an affair with her stepson.

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Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts starts with a rather banal scene. Anne (Trine Dyrholm) walks through the woods with her dog. Her children are just outside her large, glass-heavy house. She goes inside, where her husband, Peter (Magnus Krepper), says police have called and he has to go. She looks outside at some barren trees, dramatic strings play, and the title credits come on; it’s a seemingly innocuous moment curdled into something far more ominous. 

This opening salvo with something moody and dark hiding within the banality and reliability of a simple family scene (later revealed to be in the future) sums up the Official Danish Best International Film submission Queen of Hearts as a whole. This is a film of bad decisions, loneliness, and creaky moral boundaries, interrogating the mores of modern womanhood against the backdrop of supposed domestic perfection. 

Our protagonist, Anne, is a lawyer who works with children who have been abused. She knows how to talk to young victims of rape and neglect, balancing a firm sense of what’s right with the necessary language to give these children hope. But she has difficulties switching from work to home, unable to give her twin daughters the affection they deserve. One way for anyone to switch off and focus on life outside of work, of course, is to engage in some form of intimacy; yet, her hypocritical, workaholic doctor husband has little time to give her any attention in the bedroom. 

When Peter’s teenage son, Gustav (Gustav Lindh), turns up to stay for the summer, Anne is immediately attracted to his moodiness and sexual swagger. Their slow seduction scenes seem to all come from different movies: porno (he suddenly comes out of the shower in the towel), summer indie drama (a scene in a lake with splashing water and an ecstatic soundtrack), and eventually horror (a writhing, overly staged sex scene in the dark that is extremely shocking in its frankness). 

These shifts in tone reflect the film’s queasy study in shifting sympathies, making Queen of Hearts a modern morality play baked in typically Scandinavian seriousness. Is Anne simply engaging in a harmless affair, rediscovering her long-dormant sexuality? Or is the age difference simply too far? With echoes of both The Hunt (2012) and the women-focused sex-dramas of Lars von Trier, it is sure to provoke a mixture of praise for its brazen female sexual gaze, and eventually disgust for where this gaze finally takes us. 

Queen of Hearts

Most of us assume that we are good people, even as we are engaging in less than savoury activities. It may look bad to people on the outside, but we have our reasons. The ever-reliable Trine Dyrholm turns in another mesmerising performance here, balancing her own lack of sexual self-confidence against her outwardly authoritative presence as a lawyer. Even if we cannot agree with what she does, Dyrholm successfully conveys her character’s complexity, making her sympathetic throughout. But just as we can never judge ourselves objectively, we can never know the ultimate effect our actions may have on others, especially in a dynamic such as this, leading to some bitter results. 

Queen of Hearts asks the viewer to never make assumptions, to think outside of clichés, and to really dig deep into the true heart of the matter. Director May el-Toukhy knows she has strong actors and a strong screenplay here, employing minimal tricks to just let them get on and really chew into the material. While unlikely to make it into the final Oscar shortlist, Queen of Hearts deserves a lot of credit for its utter brazenness and steadfast commitment to its difficult premise.

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‘Ford v Ferrari’ Drives Fast with Little Under the Hood

A classic Hollywood drama with fast cars and a stellar Christian Bale performance that feels great despite a lack of emotional substance.

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Ford v Ferrari

Many directors always struggle with producers and other businessmen to retain their vision. What might work most for that vision may not be what focus tests and audiences have proven to enjoy, so the film gets reworked and reworked until it becomes a box office hit, and potentially retains a director’s intent. Ford v Ferrari doesn’t necessarily feel like that — this is a James Mangold film in many regards — but by the end of its story of vision and skill versus marketing and business agendas, Mangold’s latest wrestles with placing trust in an individual against an entire body of suits.

When Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is approached by Ford Motors to create a car fast enough to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (an annual racing event where drivers go all day and night around the same track), he is forced to fight tooth-and-nail to get the best driver for the job: Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Shelby’s fight is singular; he wants to win the Le Mans, and knows that Miles is the only one who can do it. Yet, Ford Motors is still a company with many eyes on them, and employing the hot-headed Miles as a driver could be disastrous. So begins a struggle for Shelby and Miles to have their desires met by a company looking at the bottom line. That struggle — one that underscores every decision made by the characters in the film — is what sits at the core of Ford v Ferrari, and keeps things interesting. Set that aside, however, and the film loses a lot of momentum.

Ford v Ferrari

Still, the racing will grip audiences throughout. The final Le Mans challenge runs for a decent portion of Ford v Ferrari and is engaging throughout, but there are several other races and practices where Mangold’s craftsmanship as a filmmaker shines bright. Miles sits in the driver’s seat of all of these moments, and Bale’s performance is never stronger than when his character has that need for speed. Miles is a passionate driver with pure intentions, and Bale gives him a lot of wit and heart in between huge swings of emotion. It’s a performance that stands tall but doesn’t distract, instead meshing extremely well with the action.

Meanwhile, the other performances are also solid. Matt Damon is very good in the role of Shelby, though his character is quite often reserved because he has to be. When you put him against Bale, however, it’s clear that Shelby pales to the race car driver’s fleshed-out character, as we follow the latter’s family, his rejections and successes, and his pure heart. In the backdrop is a wide array of supporting actors, including Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles, Josh Lucas as the thorn in Shelby’s side, Jon Bernthal playing a standard Jon Bernthal role, and Tracy Letts chewing up scenery whenever he can as Henry Ford II. Letts and Lucas in particular give great caricatured performances, planting Ford v Ferrari into a more standard Hollywood drama.

Ford v Ferrari

Largely that’s the problem: Ford v Ferrari is a technical achievement with some incredible craftsmanship and performances that just never feels as great at slow times as it does when it’s moving past 7000 RPMs. It has a need for speed, and the pacing shows that, but it also doesn’t really rise very high above what’s needed to please an audience. Mangold is great at deriving emotional substance out of a subject, but a lot of that in Ford v Ferrari is left on the shoulders of Bale’s performance. Instead, the film focuses heavily on the bureaucratic side of things, and how that hinders talented people from being who they are destined to be. While fun to watch, there isn’t much more that will have Ford v Ferrari lingering with audiences. Instead, this will be a movie that resonates with racing fans and those that struggle against restrictions, keeping general audience satisfied in their big Hollywood dramas for the time being.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 14 as part of our coverage of The Toronto International Film Festival.

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