Directed By: Andy Muschietti
Written By: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman (screenplay)
Runtime: 2 hr 15 minutes
Fair warning: this review won’t compare the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s It to the 1990 minieries or to the novel itself. Regarding the former, it’s not really fair to compare a miniseries, which is pretty limited on what it can show on TV, to a big-budget, theatrically released feature film. As for the latter, I’ve only read about a quarter of the novel because that thing is a behemoth and I didn’t have enough time to finish it in time for the screening, so I don’t feel qualified to discuss the movie as an adaptation. While I might mention them once or twice, my main focus will be discussing the film, on its own, as a horror movie-and it’s a great one.
It follows a group of misfit kids in 1989- Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff)- as they try to uncover why children always go missing every 27 years in their small town of Derry, Maine. All seven friends are terrorized by “It,” the force of evil behind the disappearances and deaths, that most often takes the sinister form of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), and the group fights for their lives not to become It’s next victims.
The acting in this movie is phenomenal, especially from such young actors, all of whom have excellent chemistry. Stranger Things’ star Finn Wolfhard as Richie and Jack Dylan Glazer as Eddie stand out with their comedic delivery, and Jaeden Lieberher as Bill and Sophia Lillis as Beverly give some truly heartbreaking performances. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise makes the character his own, and his performance is truly unsettling, from the way he moves to his creepy voice.
As far as scares go, It does not leave horror fans wanting. Pennywise alone is, of course, frightening, mainly because many of his scenes involve either him in the shadows or brief, startling glimpses of him. It’s other manifestations as each kid’s individual fears are terrifying as well, and their reveals are incredibly well-done; some of them are slow, dark, and suspenseful, while some of them pop right out of nowhere in broad daylight, and I love the variety and unpredictability.
All that said, there were a couple problems I had with this movie. While Pennywise is scary in most of his scenes, there are a few that I think they meant to be creepy or unsettling but come across more as comical- not nearly as much as Tim Curry in the library scene of the 1990 version, but enough to distract from the overall tone of the movie. Bill Skarsgard has said how much he loved Curry’s performance, and maybe he was trying to draw inspiration from it, but if that’s the case, I’m not sure it was a good idea.
I’m also disappointed in how little they focused on the character of Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs). For a movie that is mostly well-paced and makes an obvious effort to develop the other characters, Mike’s backstory feels tacked on; he just talks about it for maybe a minute a little after he meets the other kids. A lot of the climax of the movie takes place in the house where he was trapped during a fire that killed both of his parents, but besides his brief account of it a couple scenes earlier, he never addresses it when they’re actually at the house, which seems like a huge missed opportunity. Considering Mike is the only kid who remains in Derry into adulthood (sorry about the spoiler, but come on, the book has been out for over thirty years now), you’d think they’d spend a little more time fleshing out his backstory.
Overall, though, It is easily the best horror movie I’ve seen in the past few years. I want to watch it multiple times, just because so many of the scenes are so detailed that I feel like I’d notice new things during each viewing. I’m so happy they’re splitting it into two movies, and the second one can’t get here soon enough.
Have you seen IT movie? Well, what did you think?