Stephen King’s It(2017)

Released: September 2017

Director: Andy Muschietti

Rated R

Run Time: 135 Minutes

Distributor: Warner Bros/New Line

Genre: Horror

Bill Skarsgard: Pennywise
Jaeden Lieberher: Bill Denbrough
Jeremy Ray Taylor: Ben Hanscom
Sophia Lillis: Beverly Marsh
Finn Wolfhard: Richie Tozier
Chosen Jacobs: Mike Hanlon
Wyatt Oleff: Stanley Uris
Nicholas Hamilton: Henry Bowers

Stephen King is one of the most well-known horror novelists in the world today.  He has a particularly nifty eye for detail and character development that you generally don’t see in horror novels.  That being said, his stuff can be hit-and-miss for people like me.  While you have absolute classics like Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Pet Semetary and It, he’s also given us some pretty substandard stuff like Needful Things, Desperation, and Dreamcatcher.  The one thing that a lot of these books have in common, is that they’ve mostly been adapted into either movies or TV mini-series.  Some were quite excellent like The Shining, Carrie and Pet Semetary, some adaptations were almost as bad as the book like Dreamcatcher.  That’s one of the few Stephen King books and adaptions that I can genuinely say that I hate.  One of the most interesting books that King has written and I consider to be one of his best is It.  It was a pretty grim story.  The mini-series that it was adapted into in the early 90s was a bit of a mixed bag.  In 2017, Warner Bros and New Line would take another stab at the character of Pennywise and the group known as the Losers’ Club for a new adaptation for Stephen King’s It.

The film opens in Derry, Maine in 1988.  We see young Georgie Denbrough as he takes his new paper boat and plays with it in the streets as it’s raining.  When the boat flows into a drain, Georgie attempts to retrieve it when he’s confronted by a mysterious clown with yellow eyes.  After a brief conversation, the mysterious clown pulls young Georgie into the drain.  A year later, Bill Denbrough and his friends are still haunted by the disappearance of Bill’s younger brother.  As summer begins to set in, the boys learn of more disappearances, until one of the boys discovers a disturbing pattern that features a devastating event that’s been happening every 27 years in Derry.  As time goes on, the boys begin to see visions of a disturbing clown by the name of Pennywise.  Realizing that this…clown may be responsible not only for the disappearance of random children, but also Georgie as well.  The story of It is one of my personal favorites that Stephen King ever wrote.  It really didn’t pull any punches as to what happened to the kids that disappeared, but it also gave us one of the most unique and diabolical villains in modern literature: Pennywise.  This new film is essentially the first half of the actual story with Chapter II coming next year.  I can’t wait.

When one is discussing Stephen King’s It, one always has to mention the story’s primary villain, Pennywise.  The mini-series that debuted back in the early 90s featured an iconic performance by Tim Curry as the evil clown.  It was one of those performances that really lifted Mr. Curry to legendary status.  His take on the character was funny but also terrifying at the same time.  For the 2017 film, we have young Bill Skarsgard take on the iconic role.  You want to know something?  He’s really, really creepy.  Bill can do this thing with his smile that really gets under your skin.  He really steals the show as any good villain should, but Bill throws everything into his performance.  He does most of his own stunts and scares the hell out of the kids on the set.  I refuse to say which performance is better, Curry’s or Skarsgard’s.  In my opinion, they are both excellent takes on the same character.  The kids that play the…well…kids in the film are really good.  You really do believe that Bill, Richie, Mike, Eddie and Stan are the best of friends.  The acting is absolutely phenomenal.

From a visual standpoint, this is an absolutely stunning film.  The set designs are extremely large and at the same time claustrophobic.  Like-wise the city of Derry just feels like one of those old-fashioned cities that you see in some of those old movies.  The sewers are wonderfully grotesque and Pennywise’s lair is massive.  Yeah, there definitely is CGI being used in the film, but it’s really done in a way to really capture the scale of certain scenes.  The actual blood effects are mostly practical.  There’s a scene in Beverly Marsh’s bathroom that gets covered in blood when the red stuff comes out of the drain.  It’s pretty freakin’ awesome, actually.  Like-wise the costumes are very much like the clothes that came out of the late 80s.  Pennywise himself is pretty creepy.  You’ve got the make-up obviously and the red hair, but it would mean nothing if Bill Skarsgard wasn’t up for it.  Overall, the look of It was very impressive.

The film runs at a pretty good pace, despite its run-time.  If you’re at all familiar with the book or mini-series, then a lot of what you see here is going to be very familiar.  Obviously, it’s not necessarily a straight remake of the mini-series, as certain characters and situations are dealt with in different ways.  But the overall spirit and story remain intact.  There was a part in the book that was wisely left out of the mini-series and this film.  It involved Beverly Marsh and how she decided to….”connect” with the boys of the Losers’ Club.  It was very wise of the film-makers to leave that aspect of the story out of the film.  But overall, I would have to say that It is still a very compelling and really great story.  My only “gripe” is that we don’t really learn who or what Pennywise really is, although there references in the book to the character being an ancient entity from the dawn of time.  But you know what they say: A mystery once solved is never quite as interesting.

Honestly, I was really worried about how Bill Skarsgard was going to portray Pennywise, but I found myself really intrigued by his performance.  It’s very different than what Tim Curry did back in the early 90s.  Also, setting the film in the late 80s instead of the 50s makes a lot of sense.  Overall, I would have to say that the 2017 version of It is a very strong movie.  Now, if they can make Chapter II just as awesome, I’ll be in 7th Heaven.  The one thing they need to do in Chapter II is to not turn Pennywise into a fucking spider like they did in the mini-series.  If you’re going to reveal his true form, it really needs to be something big and terrifying.  But yeah, overall:  This is a damn good movie.

My final recommendation: We all float down here. 9/10

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