*Originally written on 9/13/17*
You’ll Float Too
Adapting a book into a movie isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when the book is over 1000 pages long. When it comes to IT, director Andy Muschietti and co. have created a modern horror classic.
Based on Stephen King’s horrifying 1986 novel of the same name. It tells the story of a group of kids-known as the losers-who experience the horrors of an entity they label as “IT,” and the dark history associated with their small town of Derry, Maine. IT as a film feels very much like an amalgamation of various films that have come before it. Movies and shows such as The Goonies, Stand by Me and Stranger Things have similar threads found throughout IT.
In many ways this borrowed inspiration is coming full-circle, since IT (the book) helped shape some of these coming-of-age stories previously stated. The closest IT reminded me of was a hard-R mixture of The Goonies with a monster thrown it. In fact, it plays out this way over the course of it’s over two-hour run-time. From Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie’s (Jackson Robert Scott)-disturbingly brilliant-storm-drain encounter to the ending in the sewers. IT’s pacing never feels misguided; feeling more focused at times than it has any right to be.
Much of this is thanks to a perfect blend of horror/tension building and comedic relief. The use of Pennywise is minimal towards the beginning of the film; instead focusing on each “loser,” and their formation. Joining Bill are Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff).
From their very first interactions chemistry is immediately struck. Each actor feels genuine, and more of a real-life kid growing up in the 80’s-a departure from the book’s 50’s setting. So much in fact, that when they encounter Pennywise their reactions feel real and unsettling. Even when dealing with the town’s bullies lead by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), the script calls for kids reactions to be real, instead of artificial. Their personal lives outside of uncovering Pennywise’s origin is also expertly done; and relevant. From personal demons, slut-shaming, abuse, Stockholm syndrome, name-calling and more, IT isn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects, and it shows the vulnerability and terror one can experience, even as a child.
There are however, a few minor things involving the kids from both sides that didn’t sit right with me. Henry Bowers, while being a completely evil embodiment of a child, comes off cartoonish at times. As for the losers, their bickering and “dirty humor” back-and-forth add a breath of fresh-air to an otherwise dreary film. At times however, these jokes teeter on overstaying their welcome, yet are held back just enough without being overbearing.
Coming from a Stephen King fan who has read the novelization, I noticed that certain parts of the novel were omitted in favor of a more edgy approach. Most of these changes work out in the films benefit, with the exception of a certain character. Without spoiling it; a certain character gets kidnapped by Pennywise with ease, yet when Pennywise tries to capture the other losers, he can’t seem to get a hold of them. It’s this kind of change that feels like it might work, but it’s not properly thought-out.
Something that is properly thought-out is the use of Pennywise. Bill Skarsgård’s performance reminded me a lot of Heath Ledger’s Joker; let me explain. Tim Curry’s performance on the made-for-t.v. movie was creepy, yet held back because it catered toward a broader audience. Despite his performance being the best part, it doesn’t show the true capability of Pennywise. Skarsgård however, brings menace and unpredictability that is both disturbing and entertaining to watch.
I haven’t seen this much of a radical portrayal since Ledger filled Nicholson’s shoes. Both interpretations are vastly different, but entertaining. Curry is much like Nicholson, as Skarsgård is to Ledger. For as much as I love the interactions between the kids, every moment that Pennywise, or his transformations-which also look terrifying-appear onscreen is icing on the cake. Coupled that with IT’s interactions with the kids is everything a King fan could want…and more!
The marketing of the film relies more on the “horror” aspect of the film, and while there are some pretty horrific moments. The majority of the movie is rather creepy than scary. Most of these scares are in the form of jump-scares-which I find to be cheap, and quickly wear out their welcome. However, if you, or someone you know, are deathly afraid of clowns and/or creepy imagery, keep this in mind before viewing. You’ll never look at a storm drain the same way again.
IT succeeds based on the never-dull tension building and well-rounded cast. Especially Bill Skarsgård who gives the audience another reason to be afraid of clowns.