Earlier this week, this writer was invited to try out IT (2017) in 4DX at the L.A. LIVE Regal theater in downtown Los Angeles, and I have to admit that this third viewing of Andy Muschietti’s Stephen King adaptation was just as much fun this go-around as it was on the very first viewing. The immersive technology, which utilizes seat motion and vibrations, smells, rain and lightning, and compressed air, seems like a lot of bells and whistles to tack onto your movie-going experience, but when I checked out what 4DX had to offer with IT, it heightened everything about the film and transformed the box office sensation into what I now lovingly refer to as “Mr. Pennywise’s Wild Ride.”
If you’re unfamiliar with 4DX, allow me to fill you in (Also, for those who haven’t seen IT yet, this is going to head into spoiler territory, so I’d recommend coming back after you’ve seen the movie). Essentially, for the entire runtime of a first-run movie, viewers settle in for a full-on sensory experience that complements the visuals happening on the big screen. So, as the rain poured down during the opening of IT, we felt light raindrops and a gentle breeze blow through the auditorium, immediately immersing us in Derry’s inclement weather.
In fact, I enjoyed all the different tools that 4DX brought to the table, but my personal favorite was the light gusts of air that would blow through, especially during the scenes where the Losers’ Club were riding their bikes around the streets in their neighborhood. Seeing them rolling along on the pavement, combined with the 4DX air effects, made me feel like I was a kid again, riding my bike around during summer vacation. It was one of the subtler 4DX effects, and yet, it ended up being the most effective—at least for me, anyway.
Another subtle aspect to 4DX was the way the seats would tilt up and down, mirroring many of IT’s camera movements. It almost felt like I was gliding at times, simply because of the cinematography’s graceful nature. It was another great way to really pull you into the story without doing too much.
On the not-so-subtle side of things, during IT in 4DX we would get sprayed with a light misting of water coupled with a burst of compressed air whenever blood was getting spattered on the big screen (and you can imagine how wild that was during the infamous “Beverly bathroom scene” or when Henry Bowers murders his father). The compressed air was also timed to some of the jump scares in IT, too, and I’ll admit that they got me to jump once, and I didn’t even jump the first time I saw the movie, so 4DX really gave this viewing even more of a fun vibe. And, if you didn’t think balloons popping could be a nerve-shredding thing, just see IT in 4DX, and you’ll be hopping out of your seat soon enough.
Probably the most noticeable enhancement 4DX had to offer was using “Smell-O-Vision” (for lack of a better term), because when Pennywise talked about popcorn and cotton candy, that’s precisely what I was smelling. There were also some foul smells as well, especially whenever the kids were traipsing through the sewers, and whatever smell they used for fire really stuck in my nose, even after I was headed home after the movie.
Of course, the highlight of the IT 4DX experience was any time Pennywise was on the screen, because that’s when the seats would go absolutely nuts, and I honestly felt like I was on a roller coaster at those moments, especially during the basement scene with Bill, the first attack at the house on Neibolt Street, and the garage attack, too (the latter also had a light-flashing sequence that really added to that scene’s frenetic feeling). And during the fight scenes with Pennywise, we were also tussled about, as the chair reacted in tandem to the hits that the demonic clown was taking.
While it may not be a format I’d recommend for regular movies, I had a lot of fun while checking out 4DX, and for over two hours, I felt like I was taking a ride on a Stephen King-themed attraction. It was a thrilling way to revisit the movie again (and for anyone who has visited Universal Studios Hollywood, it’s very similar to what you get while on The Simpsons ride). Even though this is something of an advanced technology that we’re talking about here, I could not help but be reminded of some of the tricks William Castle would use back in the day, and I feel like 4DX is something the pioneer of immersive theatergoing would have loved himself.