Oh wow, two Stephen King stories in the span of a month. When you’ve got popular work, you’ve got popular work.
Outside of Youtube’s Nostalgia Critic and his review of IT (1990), I’ve actually never seen the original. Is there any point in mentioning that I never read the book? I do know that the original movie is considered pretty scary according to many. But from what I saw of Nostalgia Critic’s review, the movie looks incredibly silly and very much not scary. What, a clown with sharp teeth and that immediately equals scary? I don’t think that’s how it works. But fine, I haven’t seen it, what do I know?
The movie looks like it’s about the group of kids who live in a town where there’s been some mysterious deaths of some local kids. One of them was the younger brother of one of the kids. Now, this monster clown that is responsible for those deaths, and now is after these kids who are getting closer to the truth. A while ago, I forget which movie it was playing in front of, but I saw a five minute scene of the movie where Georgie meets Pennywise. I couldn’t take what I was watching seriously. It looked funny and probably not intentionally. At the very least, I wasn’t scared by what I was watching. So, no, I think this movie is going to be loaded with jump scares, but nothing actually scary.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Bill Skarsgård (ATOMIC BLONDE , ALLEGIANT , ANNA KARENINA , and the upcoming ASCENDANT, no release date announced), Jaeden Lieberher (THE BOOK OF HENRY , MIDNIGHT SPECIAL , and ST. VINCENT ), Jeremy Ray Taylor (upcoming film GEOSTORM ), Sophia Lillis (unknown projects), and Finn Wolfhard (TV show STRANGER THINGS [2016 – ongoing] and the upcoming TV show CARMEN SANDIEGO ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Andy Muschietti, known for MAMA (2013) and the upcoming SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS, no release date announced. Red flag! Three credited writers: Chase Palmer (a couple of short films), Cary Fukunaga (BEASTS OF NO NATION ), and Gary Dauberman (ANNABELLE: CREATION , WOLVES AT THE DOOR , ANNABELLE , and the upcoming THE NUN ). Composing the score is Benjamin Wallfisch, known for ANNABELLE: CREATION, HIDDEN FIGURES (2016), LIGHTS OUT (2016), and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Chung-hoon Chung, known for THE HANDMAIDEN (2016), ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (2015), and OLDBOY (2003).
Overall, I can’t claim to be excited for this, but early ratings seem to be praising it, so it must be doing something right.
This is my honest opinion of: IT (2017)
Set in Derry, Maine, circa 1989, where the disappearance of kids is becoming normal. The story follows a group of young kids who call themselves “The Losers Club.” Their unofficial leader, the stuttering Bill (Jaeden Leiberher), sent out his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) with a paper boat. Unfortunately, it was too fast and fell down a drain, where Georgie was met with an evil looking clown named Pennywise (Bill Scarsgård), who drags him away. Months go by and though still officially considered missing, Bill’s family thinks him dead. But more disappearances occur and the Losers begin to investigate the supernatural as well as facing their personal fears.
I’m not sure if I agree with all the critical praise, but this is one of the better horror films that I’ve seen this year.
Let’s start with the creature IT…self, Pennywise. See what I did there? Laugh, damn it! Unlike one of my friends that I saw this with, I thought this Pennywise was a little more threatening than the Curry version. Don’t get me wrong, Curry is an amazing actor and his turn as Pennywise is no exception. But other than his performance being campy, I appreciated the interpretation here more. In terms of the original, Pennywise seemed like he was an actual guy who turned into a creature. He spoke and acted like a creepy child stalker, which I’m sure was the point. But here, the way he talks, his physicality, the way he looks at things, he seems much more like a creature trying to be a person. Here’s what I mean. When Pennywise first meets Georgie, it almost looks like he’s coming up with his name right there and then. His dialog goes something like, “Who am I? Well I’m… Pennywise. The dancing clown. That’s it.” Imitating the sound of popcorn, you clearly get the sense that he’s not human. With Curry, you know he’s not human, but his initial appearance is very human-like. Maybe this is a ploy to make him more deceiving, so I can understand if the original interpretation is preferable, but I enjoyed the idea that the monster doesn’t know how to be human, it just acts like it does.
But is Pennywise actually scary? Eh, probably not. I think true horror is always going to be psychological, never through jump scares. And while there are plenty of jump scares, Pennywise himself isn’t always scary. Sure, the notion that he can get to them wherever they are in whatever form can be pretty unsettling, but overall, not all that scary. Having said that, there is one form that Pennywise makes that kept from sleeping soundly that night: the distorted woman painting. Anything involving abnormally shaped people will do that to me. Let’s see how long it haunts me. Actually, there’s even a scene where I kind of find Pennywise cool. You’ve likely seen the trailer with the projector projecting images by itself, eventually showing Pennywise, but this scene has him popping out of the screen in a giant form, monstrously trying to attack the kids. I was less intimidated and more thinking to myself where the Power Rangers were.
How about the kids? Well, there’s a few too many to go through, so I’ll just mention a few standouts. Leiberher as Bill is definitely one of my favorites. He has so much more emotion to work with. Wrestling with guilt over not wanting to spend time with his little brother, who ultimately gets killed and could have possibly prevented it. Desperately searching for any sign of his survival, trying to keep the Losers together, his budding feelings for Beverly, I just think the kid runs a serious gauntlet of emotions that ultimately make him the best character and Leiberher does a fantastic job. But if there’s anyone that gave him a run for his money, it was Lillis. Playing a fairly traumatized young girl who has been sexually assaulted by her own father, Lillis is hauntingly amazing as any time she’s around her dad, she is paralyzed with fear. Eyes widened, hell, it barely looks like she’s breathing. So it’s no wonder that she’s taken up smoking and doesn’t argue her slut-shaming reputation at school. She’s also the first to head into danger and the first to lend a helping hand. By all accounts, she might be the best character in the movie. Wolfhard as Richie was also pretty entertaining as the trashtalker. While I do think there’s times where he should have been punched in the face just so the movie would be a little more quiet, he’s still a ray of entertainment. Also, fitting that he’s jump from a Stephen King inspire TV show to a full on Stephen King film. Give the kid some props, he knows how to make an interesting résumé. Everyone else does great too, but it’s a little too much writing for me and I’ve already got a lot to cover.
The best thing that this movie offers, which makes it a good film, is these characters. They’re the heart and soul of the film, which far too many horror flicks forget to include. You care about them and feel for them, their struggles with dealing with Pennywise and effect he has when he comes between them. The best part is, there’s no bad guy in their group. They’re kids. One has a strong sense of right and wrong and wants to help in any way that he can, whereas another will completely refuse to help the missing kids because it’s dangerous and they’re just kids and they want to live. You understand each side, and understand the division in opinion. But no one’s unlikable and when one of their own is in trouble, they will band together to save that person.
It kind of sounds like I have nothing but high praise too, doesn’t it? For the most part, yes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my issues.
Specifically, the movie is sadly kind of laughable in some of its horror. There’s a moment where we see Pennywise shape-shifting, but it’s done in such a way that I didn’t find it disturbing, or scary because he’s gyrating on the ground like a kid pretending to comically dying. But worse, for a movie getting such critical acclaim, I’m going to guess I won’t be reading or watching many reviews of this that will talk about the worst clichés this movie offers: stupid characters. It’s the “Alien effect”: something opens by itself, and the character’s first instinct is to put his face in it. Seriously, what were they expecting to see? Is anyone surprised by the jump scares in this movie?
But all in all, this was very well executed. There’s some creepy imagery, but more importantly, the characters are all likable and you feel for them and their problems. So if you’re a horror fan or not, I do recommend this.
My honest rating for IT (2017): a strong 4/5