I had the pleasure of seeing the much anticipated Stephen King adaptation, It. With big-box remakes like this, people want to know two things:
- Is it as good as the book? And,
- Is it better than the original film version?
Typically these are easy questions to answer, but it’s more complicated for this particular remake.
First off, you must know I’m a huge fan of the book, having just read it a year ago in anticipation of this movie. I actually consider it one of the greatest contemporary fictional books ever. And yes, it’s quite an investment, with its tiny print and 1,500+ page count. But don’t worry, it still ends all too soon!
And please note, the book (and the new movie) is not for the faint of heart. It’s chock-full of perverse language, stomach-tightening gore, and images you’d never guess anyone would be brave enough to depict.
After reading the book, I dove back in time to watch the original HBO miniseries adaptation, starring Tim Curry as the infamous Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and John Ritter and a young and beautiful Annette O’Toole as the leaders of the Loser’s Club. Though satisfying for an escapist horror flick, it obviously left a lot to be desired, especially in the way of genuine scares.
But this new installment into the world of IT, pretty much tickles every bone in the body (dead or alive).
First off, I was skeptical of Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise from all the trailers and posters. To me, he looked too childlike and friendly, versus Tim Curry’s classic and mature circus clown look. The Victorian-style makeup and the over-frilly suit, along with his buckteeth screamed “cute,” rather than “menace.” But that’s where it gets fun, because then you get to see him talk and act, and he really does take the character to unexpected levels. Skarsgard is only given about twenty minutes of on-screen time as the dreadful Pennywise, but damn, does he make the most of each second!
Is he as brilliant and innovative as Heath Ledger’s Dark Knight clown? In many ways, no. But there are brief glimpses where he was very, very close to being as manic and unnerving. And I felt in those moments, that’s when the CGI took over, which isn’t ever a good thing. However, for CGI work, it actually wasn’t as overburdening as it could have been, and some digital footage was actually pretty freaky. I give the filmmakers a lot of credit for at least keeping the non-physical effects to a minimum.
Now, let’s talk about the scares. After all, it’s a horror movie, so does it actually do its job in bringing forth scares?
And that’s coming from someone who can never sit through a scary movie without turning it off or getting bored. But it’s not the kind of scare that will keep you up at night. It’s more loaded with jump scares, even if it lacks a bit of tension or suspense. There are two very long scenes in particular, where you feel like they’re literally throwing everything they possibly can at you, and it’s actually enjoyable.
The movie’s greatest strength is that it focuses on being a great movie first, and the horror stuff just happens to be a byproduct, something almost every horror movie gets backwards.
But the heart and soul of the movie is centered around seven kids, the members of The Loser’s Club. Each kid represents a small part of us, with their individual quirks and fears and ticks. And the casting for each Loser was spot on. Their dialogue was real and genuine. Not once did I feel like I was watching a bunch of spoiled child actors. I really felt like they played on each other just as we all did in real life with our own friends. It even got to the point where Richie’s endless quips got annoying, but it grounded the whole thing in more reality, because face it, we all had that friend that would never shut up, even in the face of death.
I can go on and on about this brilliant movie. I still cherish the book as a separate entity, but I will gladly be revisiting this 80’s version of Derry, Maine as often as I can.