Film Review: It
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Pennywise has awoken from his slumber once more, returning 27 years after It’s original TV-release movies.
Functioning as an adaptation of Stephen King’s cult-favourite novel from 1986, Andrés Muschietti has taken all things scary and dropped them in the middle of Derry, Maine. Staying remarkably faithful but adding in his own twisted ideas, the film reads as a modern take on the classic horror, with truly terrifying moments stipulated from beginning to end.
The narrative follows seven teenagers in the 1980s America, thrown together in a self-titled ‘losers club’ as each is an outcast in their own way. When Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) younger brother goes missing and a slew of other children start disappearing from town, the friends start to suspect something more sinister is going on. Haunted by terrifying hallucinations and sharing sightings of the dark clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), it isn’t long until the group has to face much, much more than schoolyard bullies and broken home lives - instead coming face to face with the very things that keep them awake at night.
It has had a lot of hype over its marketing campaign. With hype comes expectations – some of which I don’t feel were lived up to in Muschietti’s adaptation. Whilst the film was deftly constructed and had some genuinely terrifying moments, the film felt heavily like over two hours of exposition rather than a functional narrative.
The scary sections were as intended, but they remained exactly that – sections. There was a lot of horror sequences strung together that didn’t necessarily fit, flitting between one person’s nightmare to another in a bid to get everything it needed to into the screen time. Paired with a few unfortunately CGI creations, this quality broke the thick layer of tension that It carefully curated a few times.
However, after some haphazard jumping between scenes is gotten over, it must be said It does regain composure over its storyline – and from there, the content improves dramatically. The child actors are incredible, with Stranger Things’s Finn Wolfhard as Richie a standout in his dick-joke timings, and the chemistry between the seven youngsters natural and believable. A Stand by Me and The Goonies tone takes over from the horror aspects more often than not - which I would argue plays to the fun side of the genre rather than undermining it. They are dealing with a demonic clown, after all.
With seven protagonists and a host of other characters thrown into the mix, the film bites off more than it can chew with giving them all appropriate parts, and is a big part of the clunkiness as we have to watch each of their fears appear on screen before moving on. Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) are criminally underdeveloped and reduced to simple tropes rather than explored how they should be - though this is a sacrifice that is suffered for the sake of film. Still, it's annoying to be faced with 'outsider' and 'Jew' as caricatures for complex, three dimensional characters as they were in other forms of the story.
On the other hand, Bill Skarsgård deserves praise for his performance of Pennywise. A character that very carefully treads the line between overt campiness and being spine-tinglingly disturbing, Skarsgård’s acting ability rivalled even that of Tim Curry’s in his interpretation of the clown.
The imbued sense of nostalgia at all things 80s was deftly done, with everything from shell suits to a retro soundtrack giving the feeling that you really are back in time, performing straight from Stephen King’s pages.
With approval from the big guy himself (which is few and far between for his book adaptations), It has to really be doing something right. And it does, for the most part – though I would argue that the running time isn’t appropriate for the amount of story we get. It’s no secret that there will be a sequel to this chapter, which readers of the novel and fans of the original version will be familiar with, which might be why this first instalment is so exposition heavy for the most part. That's not to excuse it, rather give an explanation for what feels like a very extended set up. If anything, it makes me more excited for what number two will have to offer with the foundations that Muschietti has laid down.
Without giving too much away – possessed paintings, harrowing family ties, and a whole heap of blood are waiting for you should you dare to brave the creature that takes on your nightmares. Enacted brilliantly, shot in perfect fashion, but mistuned in sections and clunky between the scary moments, it's still a four-star film and stands out in a genre that makes its millions from B-movies - but has flaws that need to be recognised. It is a blend of good and bad, but still manages to float.
It is in cinemas now.