It (2017) (Review)

Written by J. Weagle

The latest Stephen King adaption to make its way to the big screen, may just be one of the best to ever be made.  After what felt like a decade in production and countless behind the scenes shenanigans the movie finally found its way to release and it is almost a miracle to think about how good it is after knowing about its troubled past.  There is no doubt about it, It is a very good film, a rare risk these days that you don’t often see come out of the Hollywood system and I hope that this is only the beginning.  In some ways it feels like a film tailored made for me.  Period piece set the the 1980’s? Check.  A good old fashion coming of age tale?  Check.  A whimsical Speilberg-esque feel that makes me strangely nostalgic for my childhood? Check.

It opens in October 1988 on two brothers, Bill and Georgie who are having a brotherly bonding experience and building a paper boat.  Once complete little Georgie heads outside in the middle of a rainstorm to test his new boat and see if it will in fact float.  It does and it leads him to pure nightmare fuel in that of a sewer clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) who bites off Georgie’s arm and drags him into the depth below.  This is the setup and from here it is full steam ahead introducing our characters and the town.  Right from the beginning It shows the audience it is not messing around, and I appreciated the in your face opening very much, it was a refreshing surprise from a big budget horror film.

We our introduced to the Loser’s  Club little by little and a large part of the early stages of the film do a good job of showing us the lives of each of these kids and setting us up for the horror that will unfold.  The ensemble cast of kids and teens are without a doubt the strongest part of this film, as every single cast member knocks it out of the park.  I have zero negative things to say about the acting, in fact I would go as far to say this may be the finest acting I’ve seen from child actors ever, period.  Like any film however there are standouts, and for me that goes to Jaeden Lieberher who plays older brother Bill and Sophia Lillis as Beverly the only female of the bunch, as both actors steal just about every scene they are in.  I can’t stress enough, just how good these two were and I think both have massive future careers ahead of them.  The other standout is Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, as he gives one of the most sinister, downright creepy performances I’ve seen in some time and makes me yearn from the days of horror films with great main villains.

As someone who has neither read the novel, nor seen the original mini series that aired twenty-seven years ago I did not know what to expect from a story perspective.  Sure, over the years I’ve picked up bits and pieces of scenes, but for the most part this was a completely new tale to me.  Structurally the plot is solid, and thanks to the over two hour time limit we really get a chance to get to know these friends and unravel some of their personality.  That’s not to say the film waste time however, as it seems to never stop to take a break, introducing new ideas and scares and unraveling new layers of sub plot.  This feels like a lived in world, there are rules to this on screen town and the inhabitants living within it, and while it’s not overly complicated it peals each layer back in a way that makes it feel more like reading a book than watching a film.

Perhaps my biggest negative is that overall I did not find It to be a terrifying film.  Sure, it has its moments of tension but not once was I ever on the edge of my seat or wanting to close my eyes tight from the horror in front of me.  It has a reliance on CGI that I felt damaged the impact of a lot of suspenseful scenes, but that is an issue shared by many modern horror films.  At the same time, I don’t really feel as though It is intended to be a lose sleep at night type of horror film, even the novel sort of put horror in the backseat to  what was really important, the bond between the children (The Loser’s Club).  More than anything, It is about how children’s imaginations create the real horror (the boogeyman when the lights go off, etc) and how fear can be conquered together.  As I’ve said, It hits just about every checkbox on my list of things I adore.  It’s a well made film that is soaked in 1980’s nostalgia without being in your face about it, with characters I actually cared about and a plot that had me hooked.  It’s not perfect, but it is as close to it as Hollywood has gotten with a horror film in a real long time.

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