Director: Andy Muschietti
Writers: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman, Stephen King
Actors: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis
I would like to preface this review by saying that I am not a big fan of horror films, especially modern ones. I feel like they just do the same thing over and over again, yet people still seem to go for the sake of those few jump scares that get them. Never have I seen a genre that continued this long with no evolution or new and interesting ideas. However, I am glad to say that in the past two years a couple of films have started to change one of the most overused genres. Movies like Get Out, Don't Breathe, and now It have started a new trend in modern horror films of trying to refine and do something different with the genre. I am glad to say that It is a good movie, I always wish to see films pushing boundaries. It still has its faults which I will get to shortly, but for a modern horror film, it is a breath of fresh air that the genre desperately needed.
If you look at it from the surface, It doesn't really do anything different when it comes to horror films. We have all seen films which had scary clowns or a varied group of kids going on some sort of adventure. So what makes It stand out? I believe it is the refinement of key elements that play the biggest role in the success of It. Let's start off with the characters because I feel like they effectively bring the whole film together. The group of kids known as The Losers, are a great group to follow. It reminded me of films like The Goonies where each kid is unique and you are able to determine the quirks of each one. By having the characters be the main aspect of the story, you get this great transition into the actually "scary" parts of the film. Since the film's "scary" aspects come from what the kids fear the most, it gives the director more incentive to let the audience know more about the kids and what each person is affected by. All of this manages to give the audience people to care about rather than nameless people running away from ghosts. There is a reason for the fear in the film and there is a reason for the audience to care. And that in my opinion is one of the key factors to It's success.
Aside from the characters, one of the greatest aspect of this film is Pennywise the clown and Bill Skarsgård's performance. This is coming from someone who has not seen Tim Curry's rendition of the character or even read the book. But I think it is safe to say that the performance was great. The first scene when Pennywise was introduced in the sewer, I felt a bit indifferent about the character. I didn't know how this thing was supposed to make me scared. However, as the film went on, the effectiveness of Pennywise started to grow. Another thing that really helped this was how far the film went when it came to showing the violence. I was so happy when I saw that this film was rated R, because I feel like no matter what, if you are going to do a horror film, it needs to be rated R. No one is going to run away from a fucking killer clown while not cursing. Likewise, no killer clown would refrain from using the most gruesome techniques to instill fear. So I was happy to see them take that risk and make this film R. From the first scene of showing Georgie's hand being ripped off, you knew that this film meant business. That scene in Beverly's bathroom literally made me go "what the fuck" out loud in the theater, and isn't that what horror movies are supposed to do?
Although It ticks a lot of boxes and manages to do a lot of things right, it still has some shortcomings. The first and major one to me was the first half of the film. The structure of the first half of the film felt really random and forced. The scenes had no cohesion and the story structure didn't really gel until the group was all together in the second half. What also played into the lack of structure was the lack of direction in the first half. For the first hour we as the audience did not know what direction the movie was heading in. We got small glimpses of It but mostly it was just showing us the kids and giving us glimpses into their fears. Obviously we didn't know that these fears would play a role later on which is fine, but I just felt like there was no cohesion and it was just a set of scenes of "this happened, then this, then this, now we are together and this is our goal". It might be nit-picky but that is truly how I felt. The second aspect that I didn't enjoy were some lets just say "lame" elements. In a film where you had a diabolical clown that is trying to murder a bunch of kids, some other things just felt lame when comparing it. For example the "zombie" scene with Eddie, or the weird lady that Stanley is afraid of. Those scenes really killed some of the tension that the film was already doing a great job at building. If I were to nitpick more I really hated the scene where Ben kissed Beverly and she woke up from her "trance". It felt really cliche and I did not like it at all. I don't know if that is whats in the book, but either way I felt it could have been handled better. Finally, I just want to quickly say that the final confrontation with It could have been handled better. I felt like it dragged on for so long that it no longer left you with any tension, rather it just gave you a feeling of "when will this be over".
Although I did mention many aspects of It that I felt could have been done better, it was still a breath of fresh air from a genre that was beaten to death by the same old tropes over and over again. The themes of bullying, abuse, and friendship, although blatant, were effective in tying in the story with the actual fear and tension that the kids were experiencing. Furthermore, as I explained, the characters really helped the audience engage with film and made the viewer care about what happens to them. Finally, Pennywise was just a very memorable character that just carried the film all around with his fear and sometimes hilarious methods of instilling fear into the kids. All in all, It is no where near perfect. However, it does push horror in the right direction. I hope that through this film, executives in Hollywood will notice that people want more risks, and they want something different. Hopefully, this film along with films such as Get Out, spawn a new generation of horror films that continually evolve the genre into something fresh and exciting.