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IT (2017) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language & horror
Cast
Jaeden Lieberher as William “Bill” Denbrough
Bill Skarsgård as It/Pennywise the Dancing Clown
Jeremy Ray Taylor as Benjamin “Ben” Hanscom
Sophia Lillis as Beverly “Bev” Marsh
Finn Wolfhard as Richard “Richie” Tozier
Wyatt Oleff as Stanley “Stan” Uris
Chosen Jacobs as Michael “Mike” Hanlon
Jack Dylan Grazer as Edward “Eddie” Kaspbrak
Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers
Jackson Robert Scott as George Denbrough
Director: Andy Muschietti

When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, neighborhood kids band together to square off against Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), an evil clown whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.

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As time was going on, 2017’s IT has started becoming one of my most anticipated films of the year. Prior to seeing that movie, I decided to review the 1990 tv mini series. The mini series had its moments but was ultimately a mixed bag, with only Tim Curry’s Pennywise and the kid actors really being particularly good. This new version of IT had me interested however, with its much darker tone. Ultimately it delivered in such a great way, it was everything I wanted this movie to be and more.

First of all I want to clarify that this is not a remake of the 90’s mini series, it’s the second adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, and while I haven’t read it myself from what I can tell, this new film is more accurate to the source material. Something that this movie does quite well is that it only focusses on the kids, it feels a lot more focussed and consistent compared to the mini series, which felt rather jarring when it cut between past and present day (and from the kids to their adult counterparts). This movie is also thankfully rated R, one of the things holding the mini series back (among many things) was that it couldn’t go all out with Stephen King’s darkness. This newer version of IT has the freedom to portray almost anything, at times its actually quite surprising, we see things happen to kids that we don’t usually see. While this is a horror movie, I don’t find it to be the scariest movie ever. It has some creepy and unsettling moments but its not that scary to me (granted I’m not easily scared by horror movies). It’s also not just a horror movie, it is also a coming of age film, so don’t go in just expecting a simple scare-fest. This movie surprisingly has a lot of heart, you really care about these characters and the movie is really about them confronting their fears. IT also has some surprisingly good humour (especially from Finn Wolfhard’s Richie), and it doesn’t feel out of place at all, when present its appropriate and really adds a lot. So this movie has a bit of everything, a little bit of heart, a little bit of comedy, and yes, a whole lot of horror. This movie is 2 hours and 15 minutes long and it feels maybe a little long but I can’t really think of anything I would cut.

Let’s start with the leads, the Loser’s Club, with actors Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophie Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs and Jack Dylan Grazer. All of them were great in their roles, and the chemistry between them is great. They really did feel like real kids, especially with the dialogue between them. It never felt like an older person trying to write for children and being out of touch, it feels real and authentic. Also, you can buy these kids being friends, they are all outcasts and underdogs, and its so easy to root for them. Here’s the thing, it wouldn’t matter how scary this movie is, if the kids failed, this movie would fail, and thankfully they were incredibly great. Honestly the only issue I have is that some of them don’t get enough development, but even then, those characters aren’t weak, ther just needed some more screentime and development.

Bill Skarsgård plays Pennywise the Clown, and he had a lot to live up to. I’ll do my best to try to avoid comparing his version to Tim Curry’s, but I can at least say that it’s a very different version. Bill is absolutely transformative, the way that Pennywise acts is so bizarre and unlike anything I’ve seen in a movie. While I wasn’t particularly scared by the movie, whenever there were creepy and unsettling moments, he was always a part of it. He wasn’t goofy at all, he was never intentionally funny, he was this incredibly bizarre creature that was unnerving to watch. I think one thing that makes him effective (much more than Curry’s version) is that he’s not just a scary clown, he was something more, he’s not just attacking people using only his clown form. Everything from Bill’s acting and 100% dedication, the direction and the visuals was absolutely amazingly done. I honestly can’t compare this performance to any other performance I’ve seen before, that’s how great it was. Pennywise was absolutely one of the best parts of the movie. The only problem I had was that I wanted to see a lot more of him. I have a feeling that director Andy Muschietti wanted to make sure that Pennywise didn’t overshadow the kids, who really are the heart and centre of the film, which I guess is understandable. Let’s just hope that we’ll be getting a lot more of him in the second chapter.

The direction by Andy Muschietti is so great, the cinematography is so beautiful and the visuals look amazing. It really does feel like its set in the 80s, from the music used, to the costume and set design, everything. The set design especially is great, highlights were the sewer scenes, there was such attention to detail. There are a couple moments where some segments feel a little ‘too 80s’, but its not too distracting. The only potential issues I have with the direction is that there was some occasional shaky camerawork in the climax. This movie doesn’t have a whole lot of blood, but when its bloody, it is really bloody, and it feels appropriate. As I mentioned, this movie isn’t really that scary, but it is great at having some unsettling and disturbing moments and imagery. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch is rather suiting, ranging from whimsical and almost Danny Elfman-esque to straight up intense.

IT was great and met all my expectations. Along with the very strong story and direction, the kids were written and acted fantastically and Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is nothing I’ve ever seen before. Again, don’t go in expecting an extremely scary horror movie, expect a coming of age tale with likable protagonists and a freaky clown who will surely leave an impression on you. It’s one of the best Stephen King movies yet (granted that’s not saying a lot). Even though the second half of the 1990 mini series was rather weak, I can’t wait to see the next chapter. Muschietti did such a great job with this first half that I can just tell that the follow up will be just as great.

IT (1990) Review

Time: 192 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough
Jonathan Brandis as Young Bill Denbrough
John Ritter as Ben Hanscom
Brandon Crane as Young Ben Hanscom
Annette O’Toole as Beverly Marsh
Emily Perkins as Young Beverly Marsh
Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier
Seth Green as Young Richie Tozier
Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak
Adam Faraizl as Young Eddie Kaspbrak
Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon
Marlon Taylor as Young Mike Hanlon
Richard Masur as Stanley Uris
Ben Heller as Young Stanley Uris
Tim Curry as Pennywise
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Based on one of Stephen King’s bestselling novels, this is a story told in flashbacks. In a small town, a group of children are terrorized in their youth by an evil force. Thirty years later, when they learn of a new series of child murders, they return to see if they can’t stop it once and for all. Adults now, with success in diverse careers, they still must come to terms with their pasts and with the evil that stalks their New England home town, and their own fears and nightmares.

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With the latest film coming out in a couple weeks, I wanted to check out the ‘iconic’ original movie (which is actually a tv mini series). Having seen some clips and watching some reviews, I had a feeling that I would find this to be an average horror movie which really wouldn’t leave that much of an impact on me. And having finally seen it I can say that it was pretty much what I expected it to be. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good things here, the first half of the mini series is okay, Tim Curry is effortlessly entertaining as Pennywise, the actors who played the kids are good, and the film has some interesting ideas. But it feels really dated, drags at many points, isn’t really effective with many of its scares and the second half is mediocre and is completely anticlimactic. Maybe this movie was impressive for its time, but it doesn’t hold up today.

There are two things I want to mention before going in depth with IT. First of all, I haven’t read the 1000 page Stephen King book of the same name, so I’m not sure how accurate the book is to the movie. Second of all, this tv mini series is made up of two episodes, each of them being 1 hour 30 minutes, making IT a 3 hour long movie. I’ll talk about these two parts separately. The first part isn’t great, it is a little repetitive with its structure, one of the adult main characters in present day gets called about Pennywise returning and then there’s a flashback to when they were a kid, rinse and repeat. Some of the ideas and concepts are interesting and fascinating, but it feels somewhat limited. Maybe because it was a tv mins series in the 90s, it was limited from going all into some really dark and disturbing areas, or maybe it was too early and for whatever reason they weren’t able to do it. There are some aspects that don’t make sense, like Pennywise having no problem killing some kids, yet won’t immediately kill the protagonists whenever he gets the chance. All he does is just gloat and talk about how things float (which at a point is just laughable). I have no idea if these unexplained aspects are explained in the book (I’m guessing it probably is, it being over 1000 pages long), but for whatever reason the mini series didn’t exactly flesh everything out well. Because of some of the interesting ideas, as well as the performances by the actors, the first half is okay.

While the first half was okay, the second half just wasn’t good at all. It’s one melodramatic, boring and disappointing climax to the story. Most of it is just the adult characters catching up on their lives, talking to each other and its hard to care about what’s going on. There are even 2 moments, each lasting at least a minute of these characters just doing something completely random. One involves two people on a bike, the other is just a montage of our protagonists just eating. There was also no tension throughout most of this second half, there was even less tension than in the first part. You never really feel that the protagonists are in danger until near the end of the movie. Pennywise is in the movie a lot less, one of his scenes, the library scenes, is still one of the most entertaining scenes in the entire 3 hour ‘film’. Otherwise I can’t really pinpoint anything I liked about the second part. The reveal at the end was really disappointing. I don’t know if it was exactly like this in the book, but whatever case it didn’t work in the movie. This second half is a step down from the first half of the mini series.

The young actors who play the protagonists in the first half are actually surprisingly good, they have great chemistry with each other and you can really buy them as being friends. They are actually part of the reason that the first half actually works, these actors were so good that I was willing to look pass some of the issues and actually pay attention to what was going on. The adult actors however are very hit or miss, some of them are fine, others really don’t work at all. Also, they didn’t have the chemistry with each other that the kids had in the first half of the mini series. The showstealer of IT is of course Tim Curry as Pennywise, who is one of the best parts of the movie. However, I must point out that it’s not because I find him scary, because really at no point do I ever find him terrifying at all. Yes, Pennywise kills kids and scares some people, but he didn’t leave any impact on me. He’s one of the best parts because of how entertaining he is and how Curry fully embraced the role. There are some moments where he is so over the top goofy that I can’t take him seriously. A good example is a certain scene with him in a library in the second half of the series, just watch that scene and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Pennywise in 1990’s IT works because of how entertaining and over the top he is, sometimes to the point of hilarity. However he just isn’t scary at all.

This film immediately feels dated, from the camera work, to the special effects, to the scares, to the music, to the sound effects, everything feels dated. Some of the sets, particularly in the sewers are nice and work fine but otherwise there’s nothing special. None of the scares work, not even the film’s direction left an impactful scare. I mentioned how there is a reveal that is underwhelming, it was made all the more worse because of how incredibly fake looking the effects were, I won’t give away what it is, but it is so embarrassingly fake looking.

1990’s IT may have been scary back when it was released but it really doesn’t hold up well today. The direction of the film is dated, the story is not always interesting, the second half is a bore and the payoff is disappointing. It’s only effective if you have a phobia of clowns. If you haven’t seen IT, I don’t think it’ll have any sort of impact on you honestly. Yes, Tim Curry is effortlessly entertaining, and there are some cheesy moments, but that’s all. It’s not even a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of watch, its just mostly a chore. As for the newer film adaptation of IT, I have a lot of faith in it, with the modern effects, darker take, a longer runtime, it has to be at least better than whatever this film was trying to be.