I have a confession to make: I love Stephen King's works. I am completely biased in everything involving him. From the great works like The Stand to the less notable novels like The Tommyknockers, I have an appreciation for them all. And IT is no exception. While I have my issues with some parts of the novel, I would still consider IT to be in the top three books he has ever written.
(From here on out, be warned: there are spoilers for both the movie and the book.)
Derry, Maine isn't like other towns. It's cheerful and welcoming on the outside, but holds a dark secret deep within the sewers, one that hunts down children. After his brother, Georgie, goes missing one day, Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), attempts to track down his body, which it seems everyone else has given up on. Joining him are his friends Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff), and Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), followed shortly by the addition of Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), and Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis).
Dubbing themselves the Losers Club, the kids begin to discover that something is out there, trying to scare them and kill them. After much searching, they all find out that the something is a being called Pennywise, the Dancing Clown, or, as they call it, IT (Bill Skarsgård). When one of their own gets kidnapped by IT, the Losers Club decides that enough is enough and set out to kill IT once and for all.
So what was my opinion on the latest film?
I loved it (pun intended). It has been a while since I have been in a theater and felt terrified to be there, even in the company of trusted family. Skarsgård knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of Pennywise. In contrast to Tim Curry's large ham of a clown, Skarsgård makes Pennywise a cold sadist, who somehow still makes us laugh almost as much as we scream.
The fear introduced by the film is organic, but relies a little too much on jump scares for my tastes. I will admit, however, that even though I was well aware that I was about to be "jump-scared" at certain points in the movie, I still got scared, which is something I value when it comes to horror films. From his shapeshifting into a leper to his final bout in the film with the Losers Club, Pennywise shows that it is a force to be reckoned with.
Updating the setting from the 1950s to the 80s was a bold choice, one which I was questioning at first, but, given that the film intends for its sequel to be filmed in the modern day, I can accept its choice. Time-appropriate references are made without feeling tacked on.
In contrast to the book and miniseries, the narrative of the movie focuses solely on the children this time around, rather than showing both the past and present through various framing devices. I believe this is to the movie's benefit, as it gives the child actors more space to breathe, allowing them the opportunity to show just how good they are at their job. Wolfhard continues to show his acting chops by adding humor (appropriate and dark) at the right time to help ease the tension or give us someone to hate momentarily to distract us from our fear. Lillis is an excellent choice for Beverly, portraying a girl who's alone in the world, yet through the strength of her connection with her friends, is able to rise up to the challenge and stare death in the face (quite literally, I might add.) Lieberher does well in portraying both Bill's inner turmoil at the loss of his brother, as well as having taken the time to respectfully and skillfully show the character's stuttering in a way that is nowhere near the inspirationally disadvantaged trope.
However, there are some minor, unpleasant changes that mar this film's integrity. Instead of giving Mike his job of explaining the goings on in Derry's history, the role is instead given to Ben for some odd reason. The obvious reason was the scriptwriters needed a way to band the Losers together, but it still causes Mike's character to fall a little flat in character development, given his eventual important role in the sequel.
Likewise, some would argue that Beverly ends up as the classic damsel in distress near the end of the film, a scene which does not happen in the book. Once again, this seems to have been a convenience concocted by the writers to help get the film where they wanted to go, having previously disbanded the Losers after their hard fought first battle with IT. However, while I understand the debate, I would argue that this doesn't truly make Beverly a damsel in distress. Having previously overcome her fear of her father, IT now realizes that IT has no power over her, making her someone that IT simply cannot feast on without cheating. If anything, this shows her character growth immensely and makes her one of the better characters of the movie, especially since that one horrendous scene from the novels is nowhere to be found.
But as to the final battle itself, the movie deviates from the novel by not introducing IT's counterpart, the Turtle. There are several references to the Turtle in the movie, but they seem oddly placed as a means of fan service, rather than actually meaning something. Perhaps if the Turtle is introduced in the second film, this will make better sense, but as of this moment it comes about as a poor idea.
All in all, I would give IT a 9/10 for its great story, wonderful character development, and terrifying scares. I eagerly look forward to the sequel.
Until next time...
Born in Charlotte, NC in 1990. He obtained his Creative Writing degree with a minor in English in 2013. He first started writing in high school after developing an appreciation for Stephen King's The Stand. Four of fan-fiction works, as well as other original works, have been featured on TV Tropes where he is credited as the user "NKSCF." He currently lives in Denver, NC.