It Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Warner Bros UK
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman
2017, 135 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 8th September 2017
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise
Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier
Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough
Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh
Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom
Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon
Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak
Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris
This big screen adaptation of It has been steadily creeping from the sewers for some time now and when an image of the new Pennywise floated onto the internet last year it worked well to suppress fans’ fears. Would It 2017 be another Hollywood version of a beloved story, ruining the childhoods of fans of both the original Stephen King novel and the '90s Miniseries? Has it been worth the wait, and more importantly are childhoods intact?
With the success of Stranger Things and the '80s being just so hot right now, it is no surprise that the action this time around has shifted from the original novel’s '50s setting to the '80s to really boost the nostalgia for the, ahem, more mature fans and also to appeal to the millions of fans of the runaway Netflix hit, even adding one of the show's stars, Finn Wolfhard, into the mix.
The film gets off to a brutal, albeit familiar start. Bill is sick, but lovingly makes his little brother, Georgie, a paper boat for him to take out in the rain and sail down the street. It’s warm and fuzzy and of course a scene brimming with impending doom. As his boat disappears down a drain we get our first glimpse of the new Pennywise (Skarsgård). This first appearance for the clown’s latest iteration thankfully works and all fears that this Pennywise is going to be a lightweight version of Tim Curry’s masterful portrayal in the '90s miniseries, literally drain away. When he takes poor Georgie into the sewer it is done so in a gruesome fashion that is something of a surprise for a mainstream horror, so it’s safe to say we get off to a fantastic start.
Jumping forward a year, we meet Bill and the rest of his friends who make up the 'Losers Club'. Bill is still trying to find his brother, whose body was never found, and although they don’t share in their friend’s belief that he’ll find him, the club are there for him no matter what. More impetus is added to this morbid Goonies-esque adventure when other kids start to go missing and the towns sinister past starts to unravel.
The kids are great, a group of societal misfits who, when together, are strong against a foe that can visit them when they least expect it. Bill (Lieberher) is the stuttering leader, Richie (Wolfhard) is the comic relief with some truly great one-liners, Ben (Taylor) is overweight but with a romantic soul, Mike (Jacobs) is a black kid who is home-schooled and knows a lot about the town’s ghoulish history, Stan (Oleff) is the son of a strict Rabbi and Eddie (Grazer) is an asthmatic germaphobe. If one of the kids floats above the rest it's Beverly, who is realised here by the wonderfully natural Sophia Lillis, the sole female of the group who is abused and terrorised by her very creepy father.
Between the spells of deliberate adolescent humour and loogie battles, there are also some wonderful coming-of-age moments and a lot of fun is had with the relationship between Ben and Beverly, including a particularly good running joke about New Kids on the Block.
If there’s a gripe at this stage it would be that it's all a little too knowing for its own good but it's minor in a first half that is creepy, sweet and at times very funny.
As the kids all see It in the form that they fear the most it gives director Andy Muschietti a chance to be inventive and really scare with some nightmarish imagery including a painting coming to life that is hauntingly similar to one of the scariest moments from The Conjuring 2. Skarsgård too is able to pull out the stops in a performance that works, for a while…
What starts to happen as we enter the third act is frustratingly familiar for a mainstream horror, it’s as if Muschietti gets overly confident half way through and decides he can get away with anything. Sadly this isn’t the case as the action slows down and becomes close to boring.
It also starts to feel like the later Nightmare on Elm Street movies with the scares getting more obvious and diffused and the evil protagonist becoming almost a cartoon foe to be laughed at and applauded rather than feared, and similarly what happened to Freddy Krueger over a series of films happens to Pennywise in the space of two hours as he becomes less and less scary, more CG, and outstays his welcome. It’s a shame, Skarsgård is good, but appears too many times and also doesn’t quite have the gravitas that an older actor could have brought to the role.
Make no mistake, this is a mainstream horror which goes a very long way to satisfying the masses but it's also a film of two halves as the good character development, scares and laughs so well constructed in the first half take a literal and metaphorical descent into the sewers. What is also surprising is that the film is funnier than it is scary, not a bad thing in terms of being entertained, but if you want to be scared out of your wits then It just doesn’t deliver.
The box office numbers will undoubtedly ensure that we get Chapter 2 so lets hope for less clowning around next time and a little more terror.