Reviews: It 2017

Everything floats

Most people from my generation were first introduced to Stephen King's IT by way of the 1980s TV adapted miniseries. I did see this as a kid, but it was not how I learned of the story. No, my father and grandfather told me about it instead. On a rainy day, they painted a vivid, unforgettable picture in my mind: of an evil clown with red balloons lurking in the sewer. I will never forget the low, menacing timbre of my grandpa's voice as he said the words, "They all float down here." I was terrified of this Pennywise before I'd even seen the damn movie or read the book.

Finally, I was able to watch the famous miniseries. It did not meet my expectations, which is a shame, because everyone told me how great it was. By the time I had watched the original IT, I was already a massive horror movie fan. So, while enthralled with the general rhythm of the story, I was not impressed by the dated effects, bad acting and the fact that Pennywise was mostly just hilarious. However, I could tell that it was probably based off of a really good book and that it was still a story that could be told well.

That is what this movie does. Damn near everything I wanted out of that original miniseries, I got in this film. It's very nearly pitch perfect. Pennywise is a horrifying, otherworldly fiend, and his "humor" is calibrated just right to fit that characterization; Bill Skarsgard matches Tim Curry's spooky performance with one that's similar yet entirely its own thing. But Pennywise is really the easy part. The hard part is finding good young actors to play the adolescent heroes; this was half the strength of the miniseries. The filmmakers knew this as well. As a result, all of the Losers are played by fantastic kids. It's a shame there isn't enough time to give every one of them equal focus, but they each manage to stand out. They do such a great job of establishing all of the different group dynamics with the kids, I can't wait to see how they play out with adult actors in the next movie.

One of the things the new IT improves upon over the old is the town of Derry. It's not just a setting, it's a character all of its own. We see the underlying chain of dysfunction and decadence running through this seemingly normal American community. Something is very wrong with this place and the people who live here.

My only complaint is minor, and hardly a complaint. As wonderful as the Losers are, their prominence means that the film's tone is more in line with that of a coming of age dramedy than a dramatic suburban horror story. Though the surreal presence of It is always there, we spend most of our time getting a kick out of these awesome kids and the funny ways they interact with each other. This, as well as the '80s setting, probably has to do with it coming off the heels of Stranger Things. Like I said, not really a complaint.

Horror with a heart.

IT is at its core a coming-of-age story, a tale of friendship, puberty, bullying and loss told through the eyes of 7 twelve year olds in the 1980's. Just when all that seemed like a lot to deal with, a shapeshifting monster clown with a perverse lust for children's fear and sometimes limbs show up. Growing up sucks, am I right?

This is not a dumb slasher flick where a bunch of forgettable characters exist just to die in horrible ways. This is about believable characters thrust into an awful situation. What makes this so believable is the fantastic acting from the child cast. I have never seen such great performances from such young actors, even the youngest (7 years old) is utterly convincing as sweet and innocent or as creepy puppet of IT. You really care what happens to these kids, lending the film an emotional weight which a lot of horror lacks.

In terms of horror, IT favours creepy and tense over bloody and gory. Though there is some blood it's restricted to a few scenes. Bill Skarsgard does an excellent turn as Pennywise; as someone who found Tim Curry's performance too goofy, I thought Skarsgard's "barely restrained sexual predator/feral beast" take on the character gave IT an otherworldy presence and a sense of wrongness that amplifies the dread. Most scenes with IT take place in broad daylight, emphasising that nowhere is safe.

There are many subtle nods to the book, showing the director's real understanding of the source material while leaving out some of the more questionable content. This film is not a cash-grab remake of the miniseries, it is a faithful adaptation of the book. Some might think the Sequel Hook to be cheap, but considering the size of the novel, splitting it up removes some of the pacing problems it had.

All in all a highly enjoyable movie for fans of the novel or anyone else for that matter, IT is spooky, cute, sad and funny in all the right places. IT's reputation as "best Stephen King movie ever" or even "best Horror movie ever" will be debated for sure, but it's hard to say it's not worth at least a nomination.

Amblin but with an R rating

A rip roaringly good time at the movies. Gorgeous, funny and genuinely heartfelt despite the murder and mayhem that's on screen. Andrés Muschietti did such a bang up job with the material that I feel like that the loss of Cary Joji Fukunaga's version seems like a very minor casualty (Some of Fukunaga's ideas sound interesting on paper but veer way too much from the source, among other things) by comparison. As you've heard, Skarsgård is as wonderful you'd hope he'd be, with his demonically goofy laughter and janky, uncanny valley movements. But the real highlight of the movie is the kid actors. It's almost absurd at how good their chemistry is. Hell, I could have just watched a movie about these kids growing up sans the clown and I would have been satisfied.

There are some flaws, mainly in regards to some balancing issues of character development for some of the losers (primarily Mike and Stan) which also leads pacing issues for a film that regularly keeps a good beat and it's a little reliant on the scare chord for effect (though some moments, like the projector scene, are HIGHLY effective). Outside of those quibbles, however, this is easily one of the best horror films of the year and quite possibly just one of the straight best, or at the very least a personal favorite. Believe the hype on this one, boys and gals.