It’s hard to start any conversation about the 2017 adaption of Stephen King’s novel, IT without first talking about the previous attempt, the 1990 mini-series. Comparisons between the series & this new movie were inevitable mainly because of Tim Curry’s iconic portrayal of the sadistic Pennywise.
There is a lot of love for Curry’s Pennywise & with the release of this movie, many a fan has donned rose-tinted glasses to see the mini-series as some sort of horror classic. It’s far from that. As an adaption of a huge book it didn’t quite hit the mark, a fair amount of the acting was hit & miss, at times it was overly silly at the expense of horror & its ending is incredibly disappointing.
IT 2017 couldn’t really fail. It’s not a remake, it’s a re-adaption of a very deep & detailed story. That it has even made it to the big screen is an incredible accomplishment.
All that aside, we’re not here to analysis that journey, we’re not here to award it a score based off its accomplishment of being made. We’re here to tell you if IT is a good horror movie, if IT is a scary horror movie & if IT lives up to the hype.
The movie opens with Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) making a paper boat for his young brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) to sail in the rain outside. Anyone who knows IT knows this sequence of events. Young Georgie goes out to sail his boat, it gets away from him & gets sucked into a storm drain. Seemingly lost, Georgie turns to leave when something steps out of the shadows in the drain.
A clown. A clown that introduces himself as Pennywise. A few minutes later & young Georgie is dead at the hands of this thing. Not a clown but a trans-dimensional being that can take on any form to terrify children & feed on their fear.
IT opens in a familiar way but with a hefty amount of expectation. It was so important for this movie to get this opening right & it does…mostly. It’s a brief introduction to Bill & Georgie but you instantly connect with them. Georgie’s innocence & trusting nature is adorable & the moment that Pennywise kills him is genuinely horrible. IT goes for shock value here as we see Georgie’s arm ripped off & him dragged into the storm drain. It’s a brutal scene & one that is never really repeated again unfortunately.
The other important element that this introduction had to get right was Pennywise. The first time we see the clown (Bill Skarsgård), the first time we hear it speak & the first time we see just how much of a monster it is. Those expecting a light-hearted comedic style similar to Tim Curry’s version are in for a surprise. This is a very different Pennywise.
Childish & playful at time, deviously evil at others… Skarsgård’s portrayal is something very different & very intriguing. However, not necessarily completely positively. A few of his scenes fall flat, a few of his scenes are silly (not in a comedic way) & his approach to getting to the kids is questionable. Whereas the Pennywise from the mini-series was approachable, this version is not. It’s not charming & it’s not bubbling over with charisma. It’s just an evil being that doesn’t even really torment them that much before trying to kill them.
The them that we’re referring too are the ‘losers club’. A group of child friends all from different backgrounds but all with one thing in common…Pennywise. We have the leader Bill, the overweight & perpetually bullied Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the abused Beverley (Sophia Lillis), Richie the comedian (Finn Wolfhard), Stan (Wyatt Oleff) who’s strong belief in his Jewish faith keeps him grounded, the more adult Mike (Chosen Jacobs) & the hypochondriac, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer).
This is their film, their story & their coming of age. Each one portrays their character perfectly & can’t be faulted in that department. They are the best thing about this movie with believable reactions, emotionally draining scenes & bonding moments that warm the heart. Some get more focus then others but each stands out in their own way & each has their own personal dealings with Pennywise.
These scenes are hit & miss unfortunately. Mike’s experience is one of the better ones while Stan’s comes across a bit silly. Not helped by the horrible CGI.
That there is one of ITs biggest problems unfortunately. The CGI, and there is a lot of it, is very disappointing. Cheap looking, when it pops up it takes you completely out of the moment reminding you that you’re watching a movie. It’s incredibly frustrating & there are numerous moments where you can’t help but wonder why it was CGI & not a practical effect. Nothing destroys the mystique of Pennywise more than CGI teeth. Or dancing…oh that dancing scene may be the most hilariously bad moment in the entire film.
The pacing of the movie is mostly spot on baring a slow middle. A real difficult task considering how much material had to be crammed into one movie (even one that comes in at 138 minutes). The story is well told, the characters built well expect for a few exceptions.
The bullies…led by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) don’t really get to shine here. Relegated to playing second-fiddle to Pennywise, Bowers eventual descend into full on madness is rushed & disappointing.
He never really scares & his constant tormenting of the loser’s club never comes to full fruition but scares are the biggest problem IT has. Simply put & pulling no punches, this is not a scary film. It lacks tension instead going for the inevitable jump scare route. If that’s your idea of horror then great but those hoping for chills won’t find any here. You’re never left with that feeling of dread, that urge to get home & turn every light on.
The closest we get are some of the more subtle things going on in the background of certain scenes. Such as a particular TV show telling kids to go play in the sewers or a an old lady staring at Ben as he reads a Derry history book. These are things that are easily missed unfortunately.
However, thanks to fantastic acting & interesting characters, IT can proudly take its place as a good movie. A horror that is still far more thrilling & exciting to watch that most of what has been released in 2017 already. As an adaption of the book it does a very good job only really leaving out the stuff that doesn’t need to be seen anyway (seriously, who the fuck wants to see a child gang-bang?). It’s a vast improvement over the mini-series even if this Pennywise is not likely to be remembered as fondly.
Well worth checking out but don’t go in with high expectations & you’ll be less likely to be disappointed.