Movie Review: “It” at the Drive-in

Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre, Henderson NC, double feature sign for September 7-10, 2017. Photo: Kay Whatley
Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre, Henderson NC, double feature sign for September 7-10, 2017. Photo: Kay Whatley

By Kay Whatley, Editor

The It movie trailer made this 2017 movie look scary. Seeing the film, I thought It was medium-scary. It was so creepy, though, that It made my skin crawl. Seeing it at a drive-in upped the level of creepy.

On September 9, 2017, I went with a group of teens to the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre, located at 3336 Raleigh Road, Henderson NC. The theater is on the south side of Henderson, just north of Kittrell. Our drive time from Zebulon NC was about 50 minutes; the kids came from Raleigh NC to meet me and got there in about 40 minutes.

Being outside under the sky, later all the stars, was cool as heck. Watching It at the drive-in added to the creepiness; especially with people moving around outside the car. (I kept waiting for someone to start running around wearing a clown mask. Didn’t happen, thankfully.)

When we arrived at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre, cars were line up at the ticket booth. I’d purchased all of our tickets in advance, because this was our first time at this drive-in — my first drive-in in decades — and I didn’t want to take a chance that they would sell out.

Ticket booth at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre, Henderson NC, as evening falls. Photo: Kay Whatley
Ticket booth at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre, Henderson NC, as evening falls. Photo: Kay Whatley

I was greeted nicely, handed over my ticket, and got permission to take photos. Then, I drove forward along a one-way road until the rows of parking opened up to the left. Drivers had their choice of row and parking spot. We all parked near the concession stand.

The parking rows are separated by posts — where in the old days speakers likely hung — with two cars between each post. Many vehicles had already parked when we arrived, and the area was full of people, blankets, and chairs. More than a few vehicles were parked backward using their tailgates. People hung out in the backs of trucks, set up chairs on the grass, or stood in line for the concession stand or restrooms while the sun set.

The theater concession stand offered a variety of snacks and hot food, including buttery popcorn, mozzarella sticks, burgers, and fries. No food or drinks are allowed to be brought in, as the theater relies on concession sales to stay in business. Special drink cups were for sale that are reusable, to benefit returning customers with $1 future refills.

We picked up popcorn (tasty!) and ordered a few hot foods at the concession building, then picked up our order “downstairs” — a separate, lower-set building where the kitchen is housed. This second building also contained the restrooms. (Suggestion: Plan ahead as there may be a long restroom line.)

Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre concession menu, complete with red balloon. Photo: Nadia Ethier
Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre concession menu, complete with red balloon. Photo: Nadia Ethier

Dogs that are people-friendly are welcomed. We watched as people walked around with their dogs on leashes. Full rules for dogs and humans may be found on the drive-in’s website here. (I found their “FAQ’s” and “1st Visit Checklist” pages helpful; otherwise, I may not have thought to bring a flashlight, jacket, and radio.)

The photo below doesn’t do justice to the size of this drive-in, which includes the screen, many rows of parking, two concession buildings, and a playground. A stage platform in front of the screen looked old, and I told the kids to stay away from it.

 

This panorama photo shows the screen and front part of Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre. Beyond the concession stand, more rows of cars were parked. It's a big place. Photo: Kay Whatley
This panorama photo shows the screen and front part of Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre. Beyond the concession stand, more rows of cars were parked. It’s a big place. Photo: Kay Whatley

Our tickets said 7pm and we had arrived and parked at that time. Around 8pm, it was finally dark enough and the movie projector came on. The theater showed a brief welcome with a few theater rules. We all took that time to return to our cars and turn our radios on to 90.3FM to get the movie sound playing through our car radios.

Note that if you don’t want to keep your car radio running, which means keeping the car turned on or slightly turned on, you might want to bring a portable FM radio and listen to the movies through it. In one car, our group kept the car on. In the car that I was in, I used a portable radio.  For those who don’t have portable FM radios handy, you can rent one at the concession stand. Just in case someone runs down their car battery, the theater keeps jumper cables on-hand.

Following the welcome message, pre-movie cartoons played on the big screen. The first was an old-time Disney cartoon of skeletons dancing. The next cartoon featured Superman… maybe from the 1940s? The several-minutes-long cartoon showed Superman saving the city from a “bullet car” villain.

Next came movie previews, just like at an indoor movie theater. I think there were three, so they went quickly and the movie began to the hoots and cheers from neighboring vehicles.

Yes, this 2017 version of It is creepy-scary. The movie is set in the 1980s, with decade-specific clothes and the requisite kids-running-around-without-supervision — kids who never seem to go to adults for help, instead dealing with problems themselves. The setting is familiar for those who have seen other films based on Stephen King books, including Stand By Me (actually released in the 1980s) and Dreamcatcher (flashbacks to the main characters as kids in the 1980s). This is also the style used in Netflix’s  recent, non-King series Stranger Things.

Just as seen in the trailer, the evil “It” — sometimes a creepy clown and sometimes in other forms — stalks the children of Derry, Maine. There’s little downtime between attacks, with It going after each kid when they are alone. If you see one of the teens by themselves somewhere, inside or outside, It will not be long in appearing.

I’d say the film kept me pretty riveted. Things go bad quickly. From the beginning, as each new young character appears on screen, each’s encounter with It ramps up the suspense. He keeps showing up and showing up. It said freaky things, had freaky eyes, and targeted each person with specific horrors. Interspersed with the kids’ encounters with the monster, are run-ins with monstrous humans that make their lives that much harder.

There is not too much in terms of gore, which I appreciated.

The film has action, suspense, and kids with serious issues — not to mention parents with issues. With the exception of the librarian, maybe, all of the adults seemed downright cruel. This disconnection of the kids from any support system added to the creepiness of the film.  For one of the characters targeted by their own parent, what went on at home was almost beyond the horror of the clown. I don’t want to spoil it, but what this kid went through made a difference in facing It.

The movie ended around 10:35pm; it had started around 8pm.  Running time for It is 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Polling our group after the movie, opinions on the movie were split between scary and not-scary.  Warning for animal lovers: there are two scenes of implied animal cruelty. No animals were actually harmed in filming; howeve,r a cat-related scene upset one teen in our group.

Even though It didn’t scare me, it held my attention all the way to the end.. well, kind of the end. Those who have read the book should know that this It movie is only half of the story… there will be a part two of It sometime in the future that finishes the tale.

People not staying for the second movie streamed out the exit… It seemed like hundreds of cars left.

At least one driver’s battery needed to be jumped the night we were at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre. As soon as she said her battery was dead, folks showed up and gave her car a jump. She was on her way quickly.

Movie Intermission at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre double feature. Photo: Kay Whatley
Movie Intermission at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre double feature. Photo: Kay Whatley

Those of us remaining had a break until 11pm when intermission ended and movie previews played again before the second film. Next movie up — Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre often shows double features for that $7 ticket — was 1987’s The Lost BoysThe Lost Boys continued the 1980-theme, with kids dressed in old-style clothes and free of cell phones.

Having seen this movie years before, I only stayed to watch the beginning and then headed home. I left around 11:35pm, and am estimating the movie would have continued for at least another hour. If going for a double feature, it might be prudent to plan to be at the drive-in until close to 1am.

Thanks to It, I was wide awake for the drive home. I didn’t feel scared, even on the back roads heading home, but the creepiness stayed with me.

To see the It movie trailer, visit itthemovie.com.

The It / The Lost Boys double feature was playing through September 10, 2017. Tonight would be the last chance to catch it.

This Raleigh drive-in releases movie dates and showtimes about a week in advance. See what’s coming next at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre at www.raleighroaddrivein.com. Note that they have a special triple feature before Halloween on October 21, 2017 (see photo below).

Flyer for October 21, 2017 Halloween-themed triple feature at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre. Photo: Nadia Ethier
Flyer for October 21, 2017 Halloween-themed triple feature at Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre. Photo: Nadia Ethier

 

About Kay Whatley 1772 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.

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