The hype surrounding the release of IT has been tremendous. Immediately after the first teaser trailer launched, everybody has been talking about IT (ha). My expectations were sky high going into this. I was prepared, literally, to have the shit scared out of me. I’m sad to report those expectations were not met. There was sitting……. but there was no shitting. While Bill Skarsgard does a phenomenal job as the benevolent Pennywise, and the members of The Losers Club are all great, there’s plenty to be desired. The use of special effects here are hit or miss. The scares typically resorting to jump scares. IT is a good movie, but IT isn’t a great one (see what I did there?).
Mild Spoilers below so beware!
IT (you can turn this into a drinking game. Seriously. Every time I say IT, take a shot) takes place in the town of Derry, Maine. Based on the 1986 novel by Steven King (it’s already had a run as a tv mini series starring Tim Curry as Pennywise). The setting has been switched from the 50’s to the 80’s for the 2017 version, but the key elements from the novel have remained intact. The focus is on a group of kids including Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis) Richie (a hilarious Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) & Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) that label themselves as “The Losers Club“. Bullies, overbearing parents, love. Life is full of hardships as you grow up, throw an evil clown into the mix and it’s only going to exasperate things. As the Losers encounter Pennywise in his various forms, they come face to face with what scares them most. For a horror film, it juggles the intensity and emotions pretty seamlessly. This is that rare occasion where you actually care about the characters and hope they make it out alive. Well, except for the bullies, I was eagerly awaiting their demise.
Gruesome things happen in this film, always to children, which in itself is terrifying. If you haven’t read the book, I’m sure there’s going to be lots of you with your jaws on the floor within the first 10 minutes. There were moments that chilled me, and the intensity ratchets up as the film progresses….. there just wasn’t enough of Pennywise being creepy for me. Sure, him standing there looking at you is unnerving, but when he’s trying to lure in Georgie (which for me, was the best part of the film), or he’s drooling over his potential next meal, that’s when Pennywise is truly at his best. There’s not enough of that. He turns into a headless kid……. and chases one of the Losers. He turns into a leper….. and chases one of the Losers. He turns into a giant version of himself…….. and I’m sure you can guess what happens next. It literally devolves into this each and every time he encounters one of the kids. Why wasn’t there more of the interaction we witnessed when he was luring poor Georgie into that sewer? Talk about a missed opportunity, especially considering how good Skarsgard is in the role.
The actors (minus the adults) all do a great job. The members of The Losers Club are hilarious, with some really great chemistry. Richie (Finn Wolfhard) has the mouth of a sailor. Most of his lines will have you laughing out loud. Each of them have some genuine, heartfelt moments as well. Each kid gets to show off a wide range of emotions throughout. I can only imagine this film will catapult them all to serious stardom. I was also surprised by the amount of humor IT had. The banter between the Losers is hilarious. The showing I went to, people were laughing hysterically during certain parts. The standout though is Skarsgard as Pennywise. He definitely would make a hell of a Joker. The scenes where he truly gets to test his acting chops, he nails. If you’re going to compare him to Tim Curry’s version, you really can’t. They each have their quirks and both of these actors create their own twisted version of the clown.
The film looks great. Andy Muschietti (Mama) has done a wonderful job adaptating the source material. I would have loved to see Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) in the director chair, but at least he had a hand in the screenplay. The special effects like I said are hit or miss. The woman from the painting Stanley is afraid of is eerie as hell (and one of the standouts, monster wise) but the leper looks terrible (not in a good way). If they had gone with a little more practical effects, I’m sure it would have made a world of difference. A lot of this relied on CG. I’ll pick practical over CG any day, thank you very much. Obviously for certain scenes there had to be CG used (specifically a scene at the end where Pennywise is literally shape shifting in front of the children as they battle, which looks really cool), but for a lot of it I’m sure they could have done without Pennywise flying at the camera or even put a bit more effort into the leper (seriously, the leper looked ridiculous).
I still give this movie my recommendation. Just, when you go to watch IT, lower your expectations. I wasn’t blown away by IT, but I’m sure if you haven’t read the novel or know much of anything about the story, IT will impress. I’m interested to see how they handle Chapter Two (we get to see the Losers all grown up next time!). I want to be scared. Here’s hoping they up the ante for the next film, which, when you consider the story is all about a child killing, alien clown, that says a lot about how scared I actually was during this one (or how messed up I am as a person). – NVJ