By: Movie Snurb (Two Beers) –
It is the monster (1,138 page) monster book about a group of friends self-deprecatingly called the Losers Club and their battle with the town of Derry, Maine’s demon Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The book was once adapted as a television miniseries and was on a re-watch not great. Tim Curry is still iconic, but the movie really doesn’t hold up. Now 27 years later (HA!) we get another interpretation of Stephen King’s nightmare inducing book, and it does not disappoint.
The first major worry everyone had was how anyone could fill the giant shoes of Tim Curry. Well, Bill Skarsgard creates his own version of the demon clown and it is every bit as terrifying as Curry’s and the book version. He becomes unrecognizable under all of the white make-up and red hair. His voice fluctuates and changes and is utterly unnerving. He doesn’t spend much time talking but when he does it’s frightening and his snarls and growls are even scarier. Fans of both the book and Curry will be very please with Skarsgard.
All of the kids in the Losers Club are perfectly cast. The whole film is well cast, with Bill as Pennywise and the Losers Club and even their rivals Henry Bowers and his goons. Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough is excellent, nailing his stutter and not making it seem fake or taking it over board. Sophia Lillis as Bev Marsh is charming and does a great job of being a center of the Losers Club’s attention, behind Pennywise of course. However, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) as the smart-mouthed Richie Tozier is possibly the best of the child performances. I found Richie to be annoying in the book; however, Finn makes Richie quite likable and garners tons of laughs.
The cinematography is brilliant from Old Boy (2003) DP Chung Chung-hoon. There were several shots that almost appeared in 3-D; it was a terrifying effect, especially the scene in Bill’s shed. Also the camera being cock-eyed every time the kids are coming close to Pennywise was an unsettling effect. The camera isn’t right so you already feel uneasy, plus in the back of your mind you know a demented clown is coming. The special effects were stellar as well. There was a lot of CGI but it was put to good use, and when Pennywise went from the contorting CGI to Bill Skarsgard scaring the crap out of the children it appeared seamless. Too often films can rely on CGI for scares, but this film does not use them as a gimmick.
Lastly, this is a mostly faithful adaption. They do change things, for instance the time setting. The film takes place in 1988 instead of 1958. Also Ben Hanscom becomes the film’s narrator in telling the story of Derry and how horrific accidents have been happening every 27 years in Derry. In the book Mike Hanlon takes this role. However these differences are minor and help move the film along. The main essence or theme of Stephen King’s book is what is important and is what was captured. Pennywise feeds on your fears, so whatever you’re most afraid of it’ll take that form and scare you silly. This is still the main theme of the film; however he does take different forms in this film than in the book. Also without creating spoilers, how the kids learn to defeat Pennywise is also used and works in the film’s climax. I’m very excited to see how It: Chapter 2 is going to turn out.
However, I did have some problems with the film adaptation. Henry Bowers isn’t really in the film. He was a major terror in the book, arguably as much of a terror as Pennywise for the Losers Club. However, in the movie he still has some scenes and his scenes are basically lifted straight from the book, but I wish they‘d have utilized him more.
On that same note, I felt that instead of more back-story they favored the jump scare. Now don’t get me wrong, most of the scares are effective and as the film progresses the film becomes terrifying instead of just using a jump scare here and there. But to get the film going, they could’ve used fewer jump scares and more exposition. There are other minor issues I had with the film’s interpretation; however, I don’t want to give away spoilers and none of the others are large enough to truly ruin the film.
This adaptation is the one Stephen King’s nightmare-inducing book deserved. The entire cast is great and its marvelous make-up, cinematography, and special effects truly bring Pennywise to life. If you’re a fan of the book, the 1990 TV adaptation, or know nothing about the story, you will enjoy this film and go home sleeping with the hallway light on.
It (2017) Movie Review
Take a Drink: every time someone dies.
Do a Shot: every time Pennywise the Clown appears on screen.
Take a Drink: every time Richie makes a wisecrack.
Do a Shot: for every different form Pennywise takes.
Pound a Beer: in preparation for this movie, just to calm your nerves.