“Ain’t nothing like a little fear to make a paper man crumble.”
I didn’t see the original IT for years as I was constantly told that it’s too long and becomes rather boring. When I finally got round to it, I lost interest as I wasn’t scared.
Having watched it again more recently, I can now appreciate it much more. Tim Curry’s performance is menacing, The Losers’ Club is made up of some strong kid actors and the town of Derry is eerie, dark and suffocating.
Like many others, my excitement for the new IT film has been palpable due to the onslaught of advertising and teasers which have been thrown at us.
Never has an advertising campaign for a horror film been so effective for me since Eli Roth’s Hostel. The hype that film received ensured that it would be a let-down for me (although I have since grown to love it).
To be fair it wasn’t necessarily Roth’s or the film’s fault – I expected way too much. I usually do. It’s the same reason why I didn’t at first appreciate Freddy vs. Jason or Jeepers Creepers.
My excitement levels for IT have been through the roof but I have also been much more grounded about what to expect.
I even glanced at a few early film reviews (sacrilege, I know) and was delighted to realise that this film was going to live up to its whirling publicity when I saw that Bloody Disgusting (the Holy Bible for us horror fans) had given it four skulls. And they were right – I’d say 7 out of 10. At least.
In IT, an ancient, shape-shifting evil emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the children of Derry, Maine. A group of seven young outcasts band together to form The Losers’ Club and spend the summer overcoming their own personal fears to battle murderous, bloodthirsty Pennywise, the Dancing Clown.
Although the film didn’t scare me, I did enjoy it. It is beautifully shot and features strong performance from the young protagonists, especially Sophia Lillis as Beverly (the token female) and Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben (the fat kid with a crush on Beverly).
However, I did have some issues with the film:
- It’s disappointing that it’s only a 15 certificate. Would making it an 18 have allowed the filmmakers to make it scarier?
- Some of the CGI, namely the women from the painting and the leper (whom at first I thought was a zombie pirate!) didn’t look great. I would’ve preferred actors playing these parts – although maybe like The Crooked Man from The Conjuring 2 they were but I couldn’t tell the difference?
- How old is The Losers’ Club? Beverly looks way older than the boys.
- Some of The Losers’ Club aren’t fully developed characters: Stan is the Jewish kid, Mike is the black, home-schooled kid and Ritchie is the funny kid with glasses. That’s it.
- The individual scares didn’t mesh well together and I find it very hard to believe that such a close group of friends wouldn’t mention their experiences to each other, especially after Ben shares the dark history of Derry’s kids going missing.
- Some of the adults (e.g. the librarian) were friendly and completely normal but I thought the disease of Pennywise spread to all the adults so the children are unprotected from even their own parents.
- I preferred the history book sequence in the original when Pennywise comes alive in a photo of the town, peering right out at them. Switching to a slideshow in the new version was fine but when he turns into a giant clown and still can’t catch them? Not for me.
- Beverly always wears a key around her neck. Something to do with her mother?
Despite those issues, there were many highlights to enjoy as well:
- The blood splatter scene in the bathroom was breath-taking. I also loved how, in this version, they all helped her to clean the bathroom, an almost symbolic expression of them accepting her for who she is. As a woman and as a fellow “loser”.
- I really like Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise. A very simple, beautifully layered performance. He even made me sympathise with him when he was being pummelled at the end – I mean he’s only trying to have a meal. I also thought he was rather endearing when he grinned and waved his snack, a severed arm.
- The brutal killing of Georgie at the beginning was unexpected and gratefully received.
- The sequence when Bill, Ritchie and Eddie are in ‘The Well House’ was well executed and I loved the clown room. Hi Tim!
- Every time the adults were watching TV, it was the same weird kids’ style programme, which showed just how under Pennywise’s spell they were.
- Everything about Beverly’s character arc. She definitely went through the most harrowing journey but remained strong, brave and is a real role model for girls, and boys.
- At the beginning of the film, Ben is trying to balance pushing his bike and carrying a model he’s made. Later in the film, Bill pauses on his bike in front of the building on which Ben based his model. I’m not sure if this means anything but I liked the continuity aspect.
For me, IT is Stranger Things meets Stand by me with a scary clown thrown in for good measure. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but I would’ve preferred if they’d stuck with the original 60’s era. Although I enjoyed seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 advertised on the multiplex.
The film sets up the second instalment quite strongly but I would’ve loved a glimpse of Pennywise right at the end. Either a flash or a sliding camera view to the sewer where he will lie in wait for the next 27 years….
Overall, this is a strong film from Mama Director, Andrés Muschietti. It is a coming of age story with an unrelenting monster desperate to eat our young protagonists for dinner. There are strong performances, gallons of blood, horrid bullies who get their comeuppance and a nice story arc.
We are well set up for the second film and I can’t wait to see what Pennywise gets up to next. I advise you to head to the cinema now and see what all the publicity was leading up to. You may not get a lot of scares but it is not one to be missed.
By Catherine Dunn (@toodamncat)
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