Wednesday, 13 September 2017

It - Movie Review

I’ll be completely honest – I don’t think that the original 1990 TV movie production Stephen King’s It holds up at all. Sure, Tim Curry gives an incredibly scary and yet appropriately silly performance as Pennywise the Clown, but the rest of the film just feels far too corny to be scary and has weak pacing. I give the miniseries credit for trying but it just doesn’t hold up for me. So I was one of the few people who saw the idea of a new adaptation of the book as a good idea; it could iron out the flaws of the miniseries and make it a properly scary flick. So I waited and finally, after a troubled production that saw many writers and directors exit the project (most notably True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga was lined up to direct, though he still has a writing credit), as well as the original actor for Pennywise, Will Poulter, being forced to drop out, we have a brand new version of It.

This new movie adapts the first part of Stephen King’s novel, following the adventures of the protagonists when they were younger. Set in the summer of 1989, It is set in the town of Derry, Maine, which is notorious for having multitudes of people go missing, especially children. A group of social outcast teenagers, part of a gang named The Losers Club, decide to take matters into their own hands when they get haunted by the malevolent clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) who plays upon all of their greatest fears, and attempt to end the curse of Derry for good.

One thing that is hard to dispute about this new rendition of It is that it is far scarier than the original miniseries. The film works hard to create a dark and chilling atmosphere and it works well as the effects of Pennywise’s actions lead to tense scenarios where it’s hard to tell if the main characters will make it out alive, and when the film engages in the violence and gore it really goes all in to lead to a rather scary ride. However, the film is bought down a notch or two by its insistence in engaging in an obnoxious trope or two from modern horror films, especially the use of ear-piercingly loud noises to accompany a good chunk of the scares. Though it doesn’t completely kill the frightening atmosphere of the film, the use of these atrociously loud sounds do diminish some of the impact of the scares. It also manages to have a stylish aesthetic to it to go alongside its darker nature, mainly thanks to the film’s setting in the late 1980s; references to pop culture from the era, including films, video games and music are scattered throughout the film and though it does eke dangerously to looking like it’s just jumping on the bandwagon of 80s nostalgia from recent media, most notably the King inspired Stranger Things (both It and Stranger Things share a child actor, Finn Wolfhard), it doesn’t drown the atmosphere of the film and gives It an enjoyable sheen to go alongside the grim horror of the rest of the film.

The real fun from the movie comes from the acting and the characters though. All seven members of The Losers Club are enjoyable to watch with a wide variety of personalities, even if they do fulfil the clichés of young characters; there’s the cocky jerk with the hidden heart of gold, the tough tomboy, the hypochondriac with an overprotective mother and the shy stammerer among others. None of these are particularly revolutionary but they all work for the story and all the young child actors do strong jobs with their characters; they all have good chemistry too as they banter along and stand tall in the face of Pennywise. Speaking of Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård had enormous clown shoes to fill following the legendary Tim Curry in the role and he manages to fill them admirably. He’s not as gleefully over the top as Curry was, instead opting for a more dark and quieter nature which helps to make him that much more sinister (though he does have some moments of hamminess because – well, he’s still a clown). Though his performance probably isn’t as memorable as that of Curry, Skarsgård manages to fill the role in a different and still entirely appropriate manner, delivering a chilling performance by his looks alone at times.

It is the second bite of the cherry for the Stephen King book and it’s pleasing to say that the second time’s the charm. Removing a lot of the unintentional goofiness and weak pacing from the original miniseries (perhaps due to the fact that It only adapts the plot when the characters are young), the film is able to become a much more effective horror film thanks to a chilling atmosphere and a bone-tingling performance from Skarsgård as Pennywise. The film isn’t perfect by any means; there are a few obvious clichés in the writing and it does fall prey to some of the more annoying tropes of modern day horror films. But It still manages to be a dark, foreboding and all around successful horror film; we can only hope that Chapter 2 will be in the works soon enough.

It – directed by Andrés Muschietti, written by Cary Fukunaga, Chase Palmer and Gary Dauberman, produced by Seth Grahame-Smith, Dan Lin, Roy Lee, David Katzenberg and Barbara Muschetti, starring Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton and Bill Skarsgård. A New Line Cinema/Lin Pictures/Vertigo Entertainment production, a Warner Bros. film

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