Creeping Horror, Palpable Dread: IT (2017) Movie Review/Ramble

itt

IT was probably the book that permanently cemented my love for the King of Horror. However, as much as I love Stephen King, his books’s movie adaptations, especially the supernatural horror ones, almost always flop. Films just can’t get the essence of what made the story scary. Maybe the special effects at the time simply didn’t have the capabilities to capture the full horror of the monster? Maybe King’s monsters are scarier when they can’t be seen completely? Maybe it’s a little bit of both?

As much as I found the IT 1990 miniseries endearing, I can’t really say I loved it. I loved Pennywise and the Losers Club as kids but the movie as a whole just didn’t get me. So when I heard that a reboot was in the works, I was quite excited. IT does have a great story to tell and the first adaptation, no matter how many people claimed was already perfect, left a lot of things that could be improved.

I had a gut feeling that the IT reboot was going to be great.

Pennywise-It-2017
And I was right.

Back to Derry

The opening scene where Georgie sees Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the storm drain – one of the most iconic scenes in the novel and the miniseries – was enough to assure me that I was right to trust my gut. The scene was ominous and terrifying, a perfect start to a horror movie.

I’m no film critic but I do know a good shot when I see one and I honestly couldn’t help but squee over the beautiful cinematography of IT (amidst all the nail-biting, that is). The filmmakers managed to capture the overlying dark ambiance in sweet little Derry that was so prevalent in the book. What’s more, they didn’t even have to show all the gruesome child murders that were detailed in the novel. Instead, the characters alluded to them uneasily, making the viewers feel as in the dark as they were.

Besides the somber tone, the reboot also had plenty of humor, some breathing room for all the fear. Since the main cast were children, the humor was pretty cute and sweet. The movie had a good balance of scary and sweet, I think.

The Losers Club 2.0

Speaking of the kids, I was also really thankful that they managed to get the right actors to play the characters. The main strength of Stephen King’s stories is the realistic and lovable characters so I was happy to see that they got the Losers Club right. I loved the subtle characterizations. Each kid was distinct and memorable, quite a feat since there were seven of them.

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So that’s It, huh? We’re some kind of Losers Club?

However, because of obvious time constraints, the movie couldn’t focus on one kid for too long so there were times when some scenes felt rushed. Some kids, Mike and Richie in particular, kind of didn’t get enough screen time in my opinion. But I did love the scenes where the Losers Club were together. Just as they were in facing It, the kids were stronger when they were together. They had great chemistry and their friendship was charming.

IT feeds on fear…

I also appreciated the updated fears of each kid. How Pennywise showed himself to each kid – their innermost fears – revealed quite a lot about the character. Pennywise shapeshifted to more than just random gruesome monsters in this adaptation. It strategically chose forms that will terrorize the kids right at their core which made It even more terrifying.

Surprisingly, though god knows how many horror movies have abused and ruined this technique, the jump scares in IT actually worked. What’s more, the jump scares made sense. I don’t remember getting annoyed at fake-out jump scares – zero cats were randomly lurking around, basically – but I do distinctly recall the other moviegoers jumping at every sudden, slightly loud noise. It seemed that they too expected cheap jump scares. IT however respected the audience’s intelligence and didn’t stoop to such distasteful methods.

The scare tactics employed in IT were effective and admirable. It made me remember why I love horror movies so much even though I wholly despise jump scares. The movie actually worked to get the audience screaming in terror instead of just throwing in sudden explosions of sound to elicit a physiological reaction. I know I’m just repeating myself here but I just cannot emphasize how appreciative I am for IT‘s quiet sort of horror.

jumpscare
This scene killed me.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown

Pennywise is King’s most popular antagonist, not to mention a huge horror movie icon. The first Pennywise (played by Tim Curry) was terrifying in its own right but the reboot’s Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is in a completely different level.

penny9
Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown

See, what made Curry’s Pennywise terrifying (and iconic) was how deceptive it could appear. It did look like a regular clown, after all. Pennywise actually appeared to be an approachable, if not quirky, clown. It looked like a person kids could easily mistake for a friend… until it bares its fangs and rips your limbs off.

penny17
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise

Skarsgård’s Pennywise, on the other hand, is more straightforward. There is no mistaking this clown for anything but a demon hungry for human flesh. Your first impression of it is that of a sinister, malicious being that can and will kill you. Pennywise’s outdated outfit also gives it a more immortal and otherworldly vibe, more attuned to its true form than the previous Pennywise.

Needless to say, I love the reboot Pennywise.

An adaptation done right (Thank God)

I had read the book and watched the miniseries some years ago but I still remember them quite vividly. While watching the reboot, I couldn’t help but compare it to the source material and the first adaptation. Interestingly enough, though there were a lot of changes made in the reboot, they actually improved parts of the story. Andy Muschietti, the director, knew what to keep, what to tweak, and what to do away with completely.

You could tell that the movie was made with great love and respect for the source material… unlike some movie adaptations released this year *cough Death Note cough*. The changes and omissions from the book were numerous but the story was still recognizable and even distinctive. Basically, the IT reboot was an example of how an adaptation should be: a different take on the story while remaining faithful to what made the story great in the first place.

Also, I was relieved to find out that the film only showed the first part of the book, the part where the Losers Club were still children. That was the part that I enjoyed more, to be honest.

You’ll float too

Overall, despite some scenes feeling rushed and some characters a little underdeveloped, the IT reboot was a spectacular film. It was scary and fun, a film that had a lot of passion put into it and not just an obvious cash grab.

Five killer clowns out of five for IT. 

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