It (2017) Review
Since the novel by Stephen King was published, It told us all how awful it was to be in Derry, Maine, especially if you were a kid. The bullies were one thing, but the murderous clown really brought down the real estate value. The original adaptation of the lengthy novel turned in a legendary performance from Tim Curry as the titular Pennywise, and It became a horror classic as well as arguably one of the best TV mini-series ever. With an embattled remake finally making its way to theatres, WB and director Andy Muschietti hoped to stake their own claim in the horror mythos and capitalize on all of our inner fear of clowns. Thankfully, It (2017) does not disappoint, earning itself the distinction of being one of the few remakes that is arguably better than the original.
In case you don’t know the story yet, after the disappearance of his younger brother, Bill and the other members of The Losers band together when they discover an evil lurking just under the surface of their hometown.
“Thankfully, It does not disappoint, earning itself the distinction of being one of the few remakes that is arguably better than the original.”
Pennywise, and by extension Tim Curry, is a horror icon. There has always been something unsettling about clowns, but this movie brought that to the forefront and exploited our discomfort with the overly happy caricatures – something Pennywise himself does. While It has been a horror staple for years, the 1990 version has become somewhat dated, the second half of the series being nearly laughable at this point. The remake, while obviously exploiting so much of what made the original great, doesn’t just stay complacent with rehashing the same things, this new iteration looks to expand on what was missing from the first adaptation.
Right out of the gate, It wants to set itself apart from the other and does so with gusto. One of the most ‘controversial’ aspects missing from the TV series is thrown in your face right from jump as Bill Skarsgard firmly plants himself as another haunting figment of my nightmares. The Losers, the leads of the story who all come from wildly different backgrounds, are explored in depth, each of the characters getting more fleshed out than before. As with Skargard, the casting of the Losers is terrific. Each one of them exemplifies the characters I wanted while almost making me forget there’s something to compare them to. Liking The Losers and being terrified of Pennywise is what makes It a great story, something that this version does very well. The film flows between jump scare horror and the angst of puberty and back again almost without a hiccup.
Obviously, the effects are a big part of what sets this version apart. Many aspects of the story were glossed over or missed entirely when it first came to screen simply because they didn’t have the ability/budget to do it. Let’s be serious though, TV in 1990 wouldn’t allow much of it. When King wrote the book, it was only bound by his expansive imagination. Muschietti and company do their damnedest to try to bring it to us on screen in all of its glory and all of its horror. Bloody bathrooms, dismemberment, and puss spewing ‘zombies’ are just some of the things that get brought to life in order for us to truly understand where these kids are coming from. The hard R rating of the film shies away from nothing, forcing us to uncomfortably watch as these kids try to grow up with the ‘normal’ parts of puberty while also having to deal with a merciless, murdering clown that feeds on fear and the dead – you know, the usual pangs of growing up.
“The film flows between jump scare horror and the angst of puberty and back again almost without a hiccup.”
Much like the original movie, Pennywise is relegated to frightening us from the background and needs to make a massive impact when he’s on screen. In case you thought no one could replace Tim Curry, prepare to be mistaken. Bill Skarsgard is genuinely horrifying as the fear inducing clown. What separates Pennywise from other horror villains is that he has to succeed as a likeable clown as well as be terrifying enough that you are now afraid of said clowns. Skarsgard smiles, drools, and chews his way into both aspects of the character, forcing you to feel comfortable while simultaneously grimacing as the clown lulls some children with his charms and terrifies others to the point of death. The crew of The Losers is also spot on. The roles that need to be charming, likeable, and endearing are all of that, which makes their haunting all the more real for the viewer. You like each of these kids, even more so when you realize how little life has offered them and how much Pennywise is taking away. The casting is bang on and while you were going to root for the kids anyway, it’s very helpful to have such a likeable group to cheer for.
The biggest problem I had with the movie isn’t anything that actually takes place on screen. You can go and read all about what happened with Cary Fukanagwa and how WB refused to let him have his vision and adapt the novel into two expansive parts. It was actually my biggest concern about this new It – if the studio had gotten involved so much and forced Fukunaga out, how would a 2 hour It cover the entire story? Well, colour me surprised when I realized about 90 minutes in that I was just watching the first half and they had released it as a two part story! It ended up being exactly what Fukunaga pitched in the first place, so why all the trouble behind the scenes?! Now, despite how great It turned out, all I’m ever going to wonder about is the It that never was and what Cary Fukunaga would have done with the source material. Trivial? Maybe. It’s always going to sit in the back of mind though, and I’ll never fully enjoy the movie as much as I should.
Overall, It is a terrific remake that rivals the original. Hell, I’ll just say it – I think it’s better. It’s funny, scary, violent, has a great cast, and reminded me of why I’m so disturbed by clowns. If there’s anything to say against it that isn’t my own bias, it’s that It probably isn’t going to scare you as much as you think. It’s creepy as all hell, but the actual scares aren’t quite as terrifying as I thought they were going to be. I mean, it haunts my dreams, but I didn’t jump out of my seat as often as I expected to.
It (2017) is tracking for a record breaking opening weekend, basically assuring that we’ll see the second part. Even if we didn’t, this was still one hell of a ride that everyone should take part in. The movie currently playing pretty much everywhere.
- Creepy as hell
- Pitch perfect performances
- Fleshes out aspects of the novel
- A better film than it is scary