IT is the kind of movie that’s almost certain to bring in large crowds for a good period of time. Whether you’re just getting into the property or have been a fan of it for a long time, it has the ability to grab your attention and create an unshakeable amount of intrigue for most. A great deal of that would be from the legacy that it already established back when it was released in the form of a book and a television miniseries, but much of it comes directly from the kind of destructive force that it utilizes to strike fear into the hearts of the characters and the viewers who dare to watch it.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name from Stephen King, IT tells the story of a group of teenage outsiders from Derry, Maine who are having a difficult time living in a world where they seem to be an afterthought to everyone except the school bullies. Things don’t appear to be able to get worse for any of them as they deal with their own issues, but that is beginning to prove false as they come to understand that an evil clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) has a history with the town that includes murder and the kidnapping of children that dates back centuries.
Although it is a horror movie meant for adult audiences, IT never forgets that children are at the heart of the story. In order to make this clear, there is a constant level of humor being put on display from these youngsters. For me, this was a good thing and at times felt like it saved the movie from being too downtrodden and dark. For a scary movie that’s two hours and fifteen minutes long, keeping up the energy is certainly needed. That’s why having the kids be kids is imperative to success of the film. Without it, it doesn’t work and we’re looking at something that could have disappointed in a number of ways.
With the kids being the key element in terms of screen time, it was important that they were able to do enough to maintain the audience’s attention and focus throughout virtually all of it. What makes this aspect of the film work is that it’s hard not to root for them to survive and persevere. That was kind of odd for me at first, because I found myself not necessarily caring for them one way or another like I would usually like to in film, but based on the circumstances and the fact that they’re too young to really control their own lives or be taken seriously by adults, it’s easy to want them to win and move beyond the struggles that they’ve been facing in their lives.
The other component that the movie relies on is obviously the horror. In many instances, members of the audience won’t be frightened by what they get from this cinematic rendition of IT. While people who are easily scared when watching movies may see what this has to offer and disagree with me, I found what’s being showcased to be the kind of thing that will most likely be able to creep you out more than anything. Along with the youthful and even comedic nature of some of the teenagers that we follow behind, this is an effective feature that makes the movie work well even though it doesn’t give us all that we could hope for.
While the horror elements of IT help the movie, you may find that it also manages to somehow hurt it to some degree. Even though I actually enjoyed the picture myself, this contains some of the same issues that the usual movie from this genre has. Like plenty of films before it and surely after it, we get a series of situations where the characters are asked to be stupid in order to make things work. For some, this could be something that is seen as troublesome, but others either won’t mind or give it a pass based on the fact that this is normal and to be expected.
For a large chunk of people who are interested in IT as a film, book or otherwise, the most important part of Stephen King’s popular tale is and will always be Pennywise. With that being the case, it’s clear that there’s a lot riding on this Bill Skarsgård version that everyone will be paying attention to. Automatically, he’s going to be compared to what Tim Curry did in the television film from years ago, but if you do that, he will pale in comparison. Right from the beginning, you’ll notice the difference and why he conclusively isn’t able to match up with his predecessor.
What doesn’t allow him to reach that level isn’t that he’s bad or anything. You’ll likely find that he gives us a villain that is purely evil from the outset. When thinking about Curry’s Pennywise and clowns in general, that was a mistake. We all know that there are a number of people who view clowns as being frightening in their usual form while others see them as being safe and fun. What makes them one or the other to those respective sets of people is the fact that they have animated personalities to go along with a visual canvas that is always amusing. That alone can create an elevated creepiness factor when talking about someone who is out to do bad things.
The Pennywise that Curry portrayed was that kind of clown. He appeared safe even though we all knew he wasn’t. In return, having him appear and sound that way when he’s essentially a murderous stalker is what made people fear him and feel for the young group of outcasts that he is preying on. Taking this approach and having him try to give children a false sense of security turns Skarsgård’s diabolical prankster into something that’s likely to be an antagonist that is more memorable and menacing. Instead of that, we get a simplistic psychopath who is animated more in terms of his appearance than his behavior.
In spite of the monster living behind all of the make-up in this movie not being able to keep up with the previous interpretation, I left the screening satisfied with IT as a total body of work. Of course, there are things that could have been done better, but it’s a horror movie that is able to succeed more than the average horror flick does these days. It is ultimately a movie that is easy to recommend even while admitting that it could have been better. A part of that is because it’s a fine movie, but I’m also able to suggest it since it will likely be able to appease most of the movie going public.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Jeremy Ray Taylor
Jack Dylan Grazer
Film Length: 135 minutes
Release Date: September 7, 2017
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
- Score - 7/107/10