IT movie review

WARNING: This review contains mild spoilers for a few minor details of the plot of the film ‘IT;’ most of these details have already been revealed in other news stories prior to the film’s release, but consider yourself warned and proceed at your own risk!

Hollywood is into remakes these days; we all know this, it’s clearly no secret.  So, too, is Tinseltown currently feeling the love for adapting Stephen King‘s works to the big and little screens.  While filmed versions of King’s stories are no stranger to TV and film – there’s a ton to choose from in the writer’s impressively substantial repertoire of 50 years worth of published works – audiences are being treated to several new takes on his stories.

So it’s a unique a challenge, then, to adapt onto film a King work that’s already been adapted on-screen once.  In 1990, four years after the novel was originally released, ABC ran a three-hour, two-part miniseries that was hailed by most critics and fans alike, most notably for Tim Curry’s chilling portrayal of the evil titular character.  While that version significantly pared down some of the details from the 1,100-plus page novel, the three-hour run time did give the series’ creative team the opportunity to work heavily in both the realms of highlighting the scare factor of the tale and staying true to the development of the main characters, something so sorely needed to make the emotional impact of the story truly hit home for the viewer.  The new film version of ‘IT’ goes a little heavier on the horror and a little lighter on the character development, and the result is a film that is certainly frightening, just for slightly different reasons than the novel and TV mini-series were able to accomplish.

In many regards, the new ‘IT’ film was able to stay more faithful to the novel than the TV mini-series did; this is largely due to simple logistics of the presenting medium, as an R-rated film can show the amount of violence and gore the novel offers, whereas televised programs on major networks are understandably a bit more restricted.

As mentioned, the horror is there from the get-go: in the opening scene (one that is now iconic in its portrayal both in the novel and the TV mini-series), young Georgie is the first character the audience meets that has an interaction with IT, appearing in the sewer as a deranged clown.  Due to the rating and “decency” constraints of television, the mini-series only showed Pennywise grabbing Georgie and pulling him down into the sewer; ‘IT’ matches the intensity of the novel, however, by showing Pennywise literally ripping Georgie’s arm off.  For viewers who are unfamiliar with the original source work, this may seem like a gratuitously violent moment, but it’s meant to set up the tone of the film: It is pure evil and doesn’t care that he’s hurting innocent children.  It’s an effective setup, one that definitely plays out as the movie progresses.

Georgie’s apparent disappearance goes hand-in-hand with a rash of other kids having gone missing in the recent months, and in the months that follow, Georgie’s brother Bill finds himself still working to prove that his sibling is simply missing instead of outright dead.  Bill recruits his friends, who lovingly call themselves “The Losers” due to their social status in school, to search the local quarry and sewer systems to try and find any trace of Georgie.  What they find, of course, is an ancient evil that targets each child by exploiting his or her greatest fear, and it soon becomes apparent to this small group that they’ve stumbled onto something far more sinister than they ever imagined.

The visuals throughout the film are awesome, both in capturing the 1980s aesthetic and doing a good job of dangling suspense right before the violence and gore.  Audiences will enjoy watching the cast of relative unknowns truly engage viewers in their roles during their time on screen – movies with a lot of kids’ roles can be very hit or miss, but I’m pleased to report that these kids are great, and Skarsgård as IT is effectively bananas.  The only real complaint I have is that the balance of horror (particularly the copious amount of “jump-scares,” effective as they may be) and character development feels a little too skewed in the former’s direction.  While I definitely cared about the group of young characters, many of their background stories seemed a bit rushed, which pushed some of the characters into “stereotypical film kid character” territory (despite the actors’ and actress’ abilities).

It was previously announced that this film is the first of a two-part series, with this film solely showing the characters in their present time and the next movie to focus on the “second part” of the story, showing us the characters when they are grown up.  Hopefully the next installment can offer a minor course correction and get this balance a bit more even; overall, however, ‘IT’ delivers as one of the scariest films of the year, which is no small feat when you consider how well most of us already know the source material and “what’s coming next.”

New Line Cinema’s horror thriller “IT,” directed by Andrés Muschietti (“Mama”), is based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, which has been terrifying readers for decades.

When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.

“IT” stars Bill Skarsgård (“Allegiant,” TV’s “Hemlock Grove”) as the story’s central villain, Pennywise. An ensemble of young actors also star in the film, including Jaeden Lieberher (“Midnight Special”), Jeremy Ray Taylor (“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”), Sophia Lillis (“37”), Finn Wolfhard (TV’s “Stranger Things”), Wyatt Oleff (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), Chosen Jacobs (upcoming “Cops and Robbers”), Jack Dylan Grazer (“Tales of Halloween”) and Nicholas Hamilton (“Captain Fantastic”).

‘IT’ will be released worldwide on September 8, 2017.