A truly bad day can either ruin anything good or make the smallest thing the perfect salve for it. Without going into a relatively over dramatic rendering of my bad day I will just let you know that was the type of mood I was in when walking in to see Stephen King’s It. The good news is that IT is great entertainment and made me forget about the nonsense of my day. It is funny, scary and familiar. Find out more of how this all plays out in a review.
The story of IT is set in the late eighties where in the small town of Derry several kids have gone missing. One of those kids is the little brother of Bill. Unable to let it go or shake the feeling of responsibility, he and a group of friends discover that their town has suffered a series of random horrific events every twenty-seven year and they are living in the shadow of such a cloud. Together this group known as The Loser’s Club discover that a shape shifting clown is responsible for this and that they must band together to kill it.
IT works on a number of different levels but one can’t help but think that it succeeds from eliciting the formula of many similarly styled projects before it. King’s own ‘Stand By Me’ probably is the most obvious but the least familiar to a modern audience. While things like ‘Super 8’ and ‘Stranger Things’ are definitely more IT’s contemporary and have provided the perfect template for what takes place here. To say that it borrows from that formula as a criticism is entirely unfair though because it is at least partially responsible for creating the genre as well.
What exactly I mean by this template is a number of things. The first and most obvious is eighties nostalgia and mix that in with an innocent childhood and small town life and you start to get a sense of it.
The label of calling IT a horror movie is fair but reductive. Still what attracts movie goers will be the scares and Bill Skarsgard performance is both endearing and terrifying. His delivery both comic like and sinister. Yet Pennywise plays on fears like darkness or loneliness and more sinister things like dead parents or abusive one. The fear of the big bad unknown all takes place while in the angst of becoming a teenager and discovering the opposite sex. The fact that parents can’t see what Pennywise manifests is a reminder of the fragility of those who have protected these kids all their lives.
The original IT – tv miniseries was defined by the performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise back in the day is truly an iconic one. It was his acting that terrified us and his cheap makeup and teeth were not the key. Bill Skasgard is terrifying as mentioned but sometimes the overuse of computer generated effects hamper the effectiveness of the scare. It’s like all this freedom from a digital playground might have lead to a bit too much indulgence. It’s not a huge thing but the more you see of Pennywise, the more the filmmakers want to make him do new things. The law of diminishing returns play itself out here as in every other horror movie and by the end the scares just aren’t quite as much.
One thing that is surprising about IT is a real witty sense of humour. Now while completely unbelievable that a group of teenagers are truly that clever in their jokes it still is a nice juxtaposition to the scares. It helps that it’s a group of young talented actors that carry the humour and their witty one lines found me laughing out loud and groaning in terror in equal amounts.
This cast carries a lot of drama. Most of them have their own little back stories and arcs to carry and it help sell the emotion. None of this is ground-breaking or particularly original storytelling but there is enough plausibility to make it all gel and give you the feels at the right moments. But it is a rather large cast and sometimes certain stories seems underdeveloped. An example is Mike’s storyline as he suddenly arrives on the scene and besides being the victim of racist bullying just stumbles into The Loser Club without an ark. For those who are aware of Mike’s role in the adult chapter of the book will be a little disappointed. Another is the use of The Mummy in the final scenes of the movie but never is actually explained in the movie.
Those familiar with the original source material might find the decision to cut the film between what is in the past and what we can assume is present day might be disappointed but IT – chapter one as it cleverly ends with is a lean efficient film and director Andy Muschetti should be praised for having that restraint. This film doesn’t drag at all.
Stephen King’s It Review Cheat Sheet
Overall Stephen King’s IT is a solidly entertaining film. It scares, makes you laugh and feel all at the right times. It doesn’t necessarily sore into the realm of originality partially because of its original influence on the genre that the movie now finds itself a part of. Still a great cast helps make up for some minor issues. Lots of fun to be had here.
- Wonderful cast of young actor who play well against Bill Skarsgard.
- Very funny but equally scary.
- Taps into right amount of sentimentality and feels
- Some underdeveloped stories
- A little bit too much computer generated effects.