“I want to run towards something, not away,” says one of our fearless young protagonists, Beverly “Bev” Marsh (Sophia Lillis). And like the seven children at the center of this film, I would encourage all moviegoers to run toward the scares in this newest adaptation of Stephen King’s wildly popular 1986 novel It.
While not completely terrifying, the film still has enough creepiness and visual frights to make it rise above typical horror fare.
Much like the original novel, the story follows the adventures of The Losers’ Club, seven preteens who are all plagued by strange, frightening encounters with Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). After the mysterious disappearance of his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), the determined leader of the club, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and his friends try to discover the truth behind the multiple murders of children in their small town of Derry, Maine.
For those who followed the behind the scenes struggles of bringing this film to fruition, one might be surprised to see how well executed it is. The film, which has gone on to gross over $180 million dollars and become the highest-grossing horror film of all time in less than two weeks, was plagued with director and production issues in it’s beginning. Original announced to be adapted by David Kajganich (A Bigger Splash) in 2009, then going on to be directed by Cary Fukunaga, from “True Detective” and written by Fukunaga and Chase Palmer in 2012, the film settled on eventual director Andy Muschietti (Mama) and writer Gary Dauberman (Annabelle) after Fukunaga and Palmer left due to creative differences with the studio.
While Fukunaga and Palmer maintained writing credits, Muschetti and Dauberman have a distinct vision that comes through in It. Muschetti’s directing is fast paced, but knows exactly when to slow the film down for some visually impressive shots. It is never boring, which is testament to how well Muschetti sets up the story. The director also knows what the audience is here to see: some potential scares. He lets the plot get set, yet he still provides some brief, creepy scenes to set up not only the personalities of the Losers’ Club, but also the twisted nature of Pennywise. The only weakness is the actual scariness of the film. While there are some fantastic horror scenes, you most likely won’t have nightmares of Pennywise after viewing the film. The film can be disturbing and eerie, but real scares are few and far between.
Much of the writing from Fukunaga, Palmer, and Dauberman is quick-witted and surprisingly hilarious, allowing the kids to be rude and crude just like real tweens who have recently discovered the many uses of the “f word.” The writers also establish important elements from the novel, while not delving too much of Pennywise’s backstory. It keeps the character mysterious, and solves the issue of having any long explanations. This technique does not always work though, with some of the children losing out on developing any meaningful character traits. Characters like Mike (Chosen Jacobs), who’s living in his father shadow while working at a slaughterhouse, and Stan (Wyatt Oleff), a frightful young boy preparing for his bar mitzvah, do not get much to do besides stand in the back and act scared.
The writing also leads to the most egregious error of the film: the characterization of Bev. It has nothing to do with Lillis’ performance, because the actress is quite compelling and charming. The character even proves to be an interesting anomaly among the rest of the Losers’ Club (at first): continuous childhood trauma has made her more mature, she is less fazed by what outsiders say and think about her, and she’s the first to triumphantly announce that she’s not afraid of Pennywise. Yet all of this progress is squandered, mostly thanks to the sexualization of her character. While there are peeks of agency in her, she’s mostly just an object of the all male clubs’ affections. She’s stuck in a love triangle, gawked at (creepily, by both the boys and the camera), made a damsel in distress, and saved in the most absurd, clichéd way. This reinvention of It had the opportunity to make Bev more than just an object, but it unfortunately falls flat in that regard.
Despite some lackluster character development for some of the cast, that doesn’t mean the actors don’t give the performances their all. Skarsgård avoid being too campy, and still manages to be incredibly creepy. He won’t terrify you (unless you have a very real fear of clowns), but his lazy eyes and Cheshire Cat grin will, at the very least, make you squirm. The standouts in the Losers’ Club are Lieberher as Bill, Finn Wolfhard as the obnoxious Richie, and Jack Dylan Grazer as the resident hypochondriac, Eddie. Lieberher gives Bill a lot of depth, and he conveys the grief of losing a loved one so incredibly well for a child. He’s a believable leader, even though he has his share of insecurities.
Wolfhard is fantastically crude, completely reveling in playing such a lovable jerk. Finally, Grazer is perfectly skittish and ridiculous as the neurotic Eddie. You can’t help but be annoyed with him, but he also makes you laugh with some very memorable lines. All the children are impressive though, and the cast seems to have an easy chemistry that bleeds on to the screen.
In the end, It is not perfect: it could still push the boundaries of scary and develop it’s characters a bit more. But if you’re looking for more than just your standard horror schlock, you may have just found It.
IMAGE TAKEN from MOVIE WEB
IMAGE TAKEN from DAILY EXPRESS