REVIEW: It (2017)

Theatrical Release Poster – Warner Bros.

The following is a review of It – Directed by Andy Muschietti

It, based on Stephen King’s super-sized novel of the same name, follows a group of kids, called the Losers’ Club, led by a kid named Bill Denbrough (played by Jaeden Lieberher) who had recently lost his younger brother Georgie (played by Jackson Robert Scott). Georgie disappeared into the sewers when he was met by Pennywise the dancing clown (played by Bill Skarsgård). When the dancing clown starts showing up and haunting the fearful kids of Derry, Maine, the Losers’ Club must band together to face their own demons in the form of a scary clown.

I hate clowns. I really do. I remember that, when I was a kid, I would hide some of my dad’s DVDs, so that I always knew where they were. So I wouldn’t unexpectedly be horrified by the cover, whenever I saw the DVDs sitting by the television in the living room. The 1990s It miniseries was one of those DVDs.

I was terrified of the movie and, in length, Tim Curry’s Pennywise. But when I recently rewatched the miniseries, I realized that its scares weren’t nearly as frightening as I had remembered them to be. Still, Curry’s performance is easily the best thing about the miniseries.

Therefore, as I sat down in the theater to watch the movie, I was definitely most worried about how this incarnation of Pennywise would work on me. How would Bill Skarsgård’s performance measure up against Curry’s performance? I am happy to report that Skarsgård’s Pennywise is frightening, even though he looks very different than what Curry’s Pennywise did.

Skarsgård’s Pennywise isn’t forced down your throat, even though his sudden arrival can become annoying in scenes that rely heavily on jump-scare effects. The character works best when it’s lurking in the background – just out of sight – or when it’s in the dark and we’re all anticipating its attack. Make no mistake, Skarsgård is good and scary, but, thankfully, Muschietti didn’t make this Pennywise’s movie. This movie is all about the Loser’s Club, as it should be.

To say that a ‘horror movie’ has a lot of ‘heart’ and is, at times, charming, may sound odd to some. But that’s the case with this film. People may go to see the film to get scared by Pennywise, but they’ll rewatch the movie because of their newfound love for the Loser’s Club.

When a film relies as heavily on characters that are children as this one does, you may end up with a bad experience. Thankfully, the Losers’ Club in Andy Muschietti’s film is extremely well-cast. The entire Losers’ Club cast is solid, but some more than others. Jaeden Lieberher, who you may remember from Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, is good as the stuttering Bill Denbrough, and Finn Wolfhard, who you should remember from Netflix’s Stranger Things, is great as the always hilarious, and sometimes scene-stealing, Richie Tozier.

But it’s two fairly unknown young actors that may actually shine the brightest in Andy Muschietti’s new horror film. Jeremy Ray Taylor, who plays Ben Hanscom, and, especially, Sophia Lillis, who plays Beverly Marsh, are fantastic. These four characters, and they ways in which they interact, are incredibly memorable. Which isn’t to say that Jack Dylan Grazier, Chosen Jacobs, and Wyatt Oleff (who you may remember as Young Peter Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy) aren’t memorable (they are), but Jacobs and Oleff’s characters aren’t as sharply drawn as the other members of the Losers’ Club.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that even though this is a young cast playing children, the filmmakers and storytellers weren’t afraid to put them in harm’s way and give it to us straight. It is appropriately violent and the camera doesn’t cut away from the damage being done. You’re getting your money’s worth. If Pennywise shows its teeth, then you can be certain that you’re going to see what they’re biting down on or ripping apart.

If you can look past those pesky jump-scares, Andy Muschietti and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung have infused It with a lot of really creepy visuals. I am very happy with what Muschietti has done here. Especially in the infamous opening to the story. I’m currently reading the book, and the chapter in which Georgie meets Pennywise has been the most effective and chilling for me thus far. So that scene really had to grab me, and, thankfully, it did. Muschietti doesn’t rush through it. Smartly, the opening is as detailed as the scene demands and the climax of the opening scene is satisfyingly terrifying and memorable. It’s the best scene in the movie.

Now, I do have issues with the movie, and I’ve already mentioned one. Some characters aren’t as sharply drawn as others, and, at times, some characters blend together, so to say. It is tough to adapt, what essentially is, one half of a novel of about 1000 pages, especially when you only have 135 minutes worth of screen-time. Some things are omitted, the time period, among other things, has been changed, and some character development is rushed through.

I mentioned that some jump-scares are annoying, but, really, my biggest problem with the scares is that, at one point, it becomes slightly exhausting to watch a run-through of the members of the Losers’ Club’s individual experiences with the dreaded dancing clown, even though some of these moments are very memorable. The ending of the film is also slightly anti-climactic, but that is somewhat to be expected, as we are only getting half of the story here.

But that is all. I really enjoyed the movie, which is one of the best horror movies of the year thus far. Andy Muschietti’s film has a lot of heart and manages to appropriately be both frightening and charming. It is bloody entertaining.

8.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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