In the summer of 1989, a group of outcast kids band together to fight a mysterious force that feeds on the children of the town.
I’m a fan of Stephen King’s writing, so the year “IT” came out, it was one of my most anticipated films. I was one of the people that saw it opening weekend.
I saw the film with a group of friends, and completely enjoyed myself. After the film, we went out for drinks and discussed the movie, and I was surprised to find that some of my friends did not share my enthusiasm for “IT”.
“It’s not that scary” was the most common complaint I heard, and actually I agreed with them. However, I took my analysis a step further, and asked the question: Does a horror movie need to be terrifying to be a good horror movie? I would argue no. A horror film can touch on many topics and evoke many emotions- it doesn’t have to just terrify. While this movie doesn’t have many moments that will truly horrify genre-hardened fans, the story and characters are compelling, the world is interesting and well developed, and the themes go beyond just scaring us for an afternoon.
“We all float down here.”
One thing I do remember from the original novel was that the first half took place in the 1950s (when King himself was growing up), and the second half in the eighties. This film pushes things up on the timeline a bit so that the first par of this story takes place in the eighties (I’m guessing so that Part Two, which is due out in 2019, will be set in modern times). This movie tells the story of Derry, Maine, a small town where every twenty-seven years, a shapeshifting monster raises from the sewers to feed on the children. Our story begins with Bill (Jaeden Lieberher, “Midnight Special”) and Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott, “The Prodigy”); they craft a sailboat from paper and coat it in wax so that Georgie can sail it down the rivulets of rainwater rushing to the gutters. His boat accidentally goes into the gutter, but Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard, “Deadpool 2”) waits to hand back his boat. Pennywise kills Georgie, and we flash forward to the end of the school year. After a series of strange happenings, Bill and his team of friends decide they have to do something to fight back against the evil that lives beneath the city. Among his friends are Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard, “Stranger Things”), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer, forthcoming “Shazam!”), Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff, “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor, “42”), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs, “Cops and Robbers”), and Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis, forthcoming “Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase”).
First of all, the aesthetic of this movie is exactly what I’d want for any kind of Stephen King adaptation. It’s creepy and atmospheric feeling at the right moments, the imagery looks incredibly polished, and the overall tone of the film is just as I remember the book. I will admit that there aren’t a lot of truly horrifying moments in this movie, mostly because the music almost always reveals when something is going to happen before it actually happens. However, there are some images that are rather frightening. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is wonderful; his slightly lazy eye certainly adds a lot to the look of his character, but really a lot of the eeriness comes from Skarsgard’s voice and the way he moves himself. As It shifts in shape to scare the kids differently, there are some really cool moments when the creature shifts before their eyes, and those moments are kind of intense too. I think the biggest problem is that the film never maintains the scariness, so the intensity doesn’t compound, it tends to fade away by the time we get to the next spooky moment. Honestly, that’s all right with me. Even in the book, it felt like there were long stretches when It wasn’t discussed at all. The book was more about exploring the town with a group of friends, and working together to figure out what they had to do in order to fight back. To me, this book had reminiscent notes of Stephen King’s short story, The Body, which was turned into the movie Stand By Me. A lot of people hear King’s name and immediately think of him only as a horror writer, but remember he was the one that penned Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, 11.22.63, and the Dark Tower series. King is far more versatile than people give him credit for, and this movie, at least to me, felt much the same way. While it didn’t completely succeed in being a terrifying film, it did succeed in telling a wonderful story about friends working together to overcome incredible odds.
I think the thing I really liked the most about this film were the kids, because without them, this movie really could’ve been awful. Thinking back on the 1990 version of “It” (the two part television special starring Tim Curry), I remember the acting from even the adults felt rather dated and awkward. The kids were arguably the things that made this movie work the most for me. The chemistry between all of them was great; some of them were funnier than others, but we got to know how all of them related to one another without taking the time to sit down and spell it out to us. Even though the cast for Part Two is shaping up to be rather impressive (right now Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James McAvoy are signed on), I have some doubts that the adult cast will be able to match the magic spell these kids cast during this film.
As a horror film, I can’t say this movie is incredibly scary, but I would argue that it is a good film overall. It’s spooky like The Haunted Mansion at Disney World; it might make you jump, but you’ll laugh in spite of yourself right after. If you’re a Stephen King fan, I can’t recommend this enough, it’s one of the better versions of his books we’ve gotten to see on screen. This movie does end with a sort of cliffhanger, so get ready for Part Two, slated for September of 2019.
Side Note: As of today, 10/18/19, “It” is the highest grossing horror film of all time.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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