Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s more than a week late, but what can I say? I’m a college student and getting to the movies isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world, but I’ve seen the movie now, and it was pretty solid! It is a new adaptation of the novel of the same name by Stephen King, written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman and directed by Andy Muschietti. In 1989, sparked by the mysterious disappearance of Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), a group of kids – known as the Losers Club – investigate the history of their town and uncover a dark secret. Every 27 years, the town of Derry, Maine is plagued by mysterious deaths, and at the center of it all appears to be a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). The Losers Club bands together to stop the demonic entity known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown from wreaking further havoc on their town. There’s only one problem: Pennywise can take the form of whatever scares them the most. Can they face their deepest fears and take It down? (Spoilers follow)
First things first, tone down the jump scares! This isn’t a movie that needed them. It’s scary enough on its own that it didn’t need something jumping out every time it wanted to scare you. But, more than that, the real problem with jump scares is the painfully loud music sting that always accompanies them. The jumps themselves aren’t what makes you jump; it’s the loud noise that startles you. It doesn’t matter if a scary clown suddenly appears on screen; you only jump when the noise blares out and startles you, and it’s extremely frustrating. The movie does a brilliant job of developing and maintaining this oppressive feeling of dread and terror that it really doesn’t need to fall back on that horror trope. It’s like Muschietti doesn’t trust his own abilities as a director. He really does a great job with the tone and if he’d just have relied on that and trusted that the feeling of dread he’d already created with his visuals would be scary enough, the whole movie would’ve worked better. Horror movies always work better if you can create an atmosphere of terror instead of relying on cheap scares triggered by a loud noise. It succeeds in creating that atmosphere of terror and it really should have just relied on that. Frankly, the movie would have been more impactful if it had relied on the tension and atmosphere it had successfully created in the same way the original novel relied on its atmosphere.
That being said, it was still a really good movie. Like, really good. In fact, the jump scares are really my only major problem with it. All my other issues are far more minor. I wish Mike (Chosen Jacobs) had been given more to do and that the filmmakers hadn’t given Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) Mike’s defining trait from the book (In the book, and the original 1990 miniseries, Mike is the one who’s super interested in Derry’s history. Instead, the movie gave that to Ben) and I wish that Beverly (Sophia Lillis) hadn’t had to have fallen into the damsel in distress trope a bit towards the end. I understand why both of those things happened, especially Bev’s damsel-in-distress aspect. She has to be kidnapped by Pennywise in order for the Losers Club to reunite and go after Pennywise. She was the only member of the club whose kidnapping would trigger such a response as all the boys had pissed each other off, so logically, she was the only one who could be kidnapped for that plotline to work, but I’m still not sure it really needed to happen. They could have gotten the kids there in another way just as easily and avoided the damsel in distress aspect, but still. Unlike others, I feel that even with her kidnapping, Beverly still had the most agency out of anyone. She took charge of everything and took nobody’s shit, least of all her father’s, and she was still probably my favorite character out of all of them. Plus, the fact that she’s able to conquer her fear of her father in such a visual, strong, and powerful way makes her character arc one of the strongest of the film, and that’s really nice, too. Sophia Lillis played all of the aspects of Bev with such ease and grace and I’m just really excited to see what else she does as an actress because she’s already doing great things.
My second favorite character, however, would have to be Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard). I just adored Finn Wolfhard in this role. It feels different enough from his role in Stranger Things that it really gives him a chance to flex his acting a bit, and there’s something just so wonderful about hearing him curse like a sailor. Richie is definitely the comic relief of the film, and it genuinely works. I love the way Richie lovingly teases the other members of the Losers Club. It’s that kind of teasing that really helps make the kids’ bond believable. Boys that age, and girls, all are brutal to each other when it comes to jokes, and Richie does it perfectly and with such love and he’s such an endearing character. I really found myself identifying with Ben as I, too, was a chubby kid and tended to get made fun of a lot for that. I adored how Taylor played Ben with such genuine sweetness and intelligence. It’s always so nice when characters who aren’t skinny aren’t played as the butt of a joke. Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) has an interesting arc as he comes to grips with the fact that his mother has been making up all his illnesses and been giving him placebos instead of pills to further the charade. Much of Eddie’s character at first is played humorously as he is scared of literally any and every germ or bad thing that could happen to a person, but as the movie goes on, the audience really gets to see Eddie grow and move past that and really conquer that fear, and it’s that conquering of fear that ties in with the main theme of the movie itself, and that’s really blatantly done with Eddie and it’s fantastic.
Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is also really endearing, especially his love for Georgie. I think Lieberher did a remarkable job portraying Bill’s stuttering in a way that didn’t feel like it was the defining aspect of the character or that it was something being made fun of. Lieberher made Bill feel real and that’s honestly the best part about his performance, and I mean that in the best way possible. All the actors excelled in making their characters feel like real people. Some of that’s down to the writing and directing, sure, but most of it is down to the actors, their chemistry, and their acting choices. As for Stan (Wyatt Oleff) and Mike, they’re honestly largely forgettable, and that’s due to the fact that a movie trying to have seven main protagonists and an antagonist is gonna end up underdeveloping a couple of the characters. In this, Stan and Mike are the characters that were underdeveloped. Plot-wise, the movie could’ve cut them out completely and been exactly the same, but I’m still glad they were in the movie, even if it wasn’t much. As for the bullies, led by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), they’re all sort of one-dimensional. The movie tries to give Bowers another dimension by showing how afraid he is of his father, but only one scene is really devoted to that, and it doesn’t land quite as well as it should’ve, so the bullies themselves come across merely as metaphors for the racism, sexism, and violence that was prevalent in the late 80s and experienced widely by young teenagers that found themselves cast as outcasts.
Now, of course, any review of It would be incomplete without talking about the title character itself, Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård. Skarsgård’s performance is most definitely not the same as Tim Curry’s performance from the 1990 miniseries. Skarsgård’s Pennywise is also not in the movie anywhere near as much as Curry’s was, so it’s hard to really evaluate how Skarsgård played the character. In terms of the character’s appearance, he’s definitely a bit too creepy looking. I feel like there’s no way this clown would successfully lure any child into conversing with it. I know that Pennywise likes to scare children, but it usually does that by morphing into their deepest fears. It’s hard to get a kid close enough to you for that to be effective if you look as utterly terrifying as Pennywise does. But, that aside, I think Skarsgård’s performance is strong. I think he’s playful and charming and silly when he needs to be that and I think he’s utterly terrifying when he needs to be that. I think he’s let down by some questionable CGI from time to time, but 85% of the time, his performance works and makes Pennywise a memorable and impactful villain, even if he’s only on screen for 15% of the film. His presence is felt throughout the entire film, and that’s the character’s true strength. Muschietti was smart to not show Pennywise too much and to just let out fear of him drive the fear throughout the movie. It was a smart choice and I hope they continue that route in the sequel.
As a whole, I thought It was really strong. It’s definitely a case of a remake being better than the original. The original had lots of charm, too, and the bits with the kids was enjoyable, and, of course, it had Tim Curry, but as a whole, the 1990 miniseries was cheesy and not at all frightening. This new film still maintains the heart, soul, and charm of the original, but has stronger acting all around and a true, genuine feeling of terror. It’s funny, genuinely movie, and terrifying (when it’s not relying so damn hard on jump scares with loud, startling noises). It’s an example of what horror movies should be striving to be instead of what they are: strong, character-driven stories that happen to also be terrifying as hell. (4 out of 5 wands).