| A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
After Andy Muschetti burst onto the scene in 2013 with a small horror flick titled, “Mama” (based off of his short film with the same title), people were eager to see what the Argentinian director would tackle next in the genre. Stephen King’s “It” was probably the last film on Muschetti’s mind as well as audiences around the globe. So after Cary Fukunaga (a choice I loved) departed the project as director (he still got a writing credit) it was hard to imagine who else would fill those shoes as director. Warner Bros. acted swiftly and grabbed Muschetti to be their man behind the lens to bring The Loser’s Club back to the big screen 27 years after “It” got the miniseries treatment in 1990.
It is a marked improvement of the mini-series. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flaws, because Muschietti seems more inspired by Stand by Me rather than generic jumpscare horror. Which should be a good thing, but it sadly references 80s kid adventure film ethos too much to ever truly become its own thing. It also can be over-reliant on jump scares at times, and I can’t help but feel that was because the studio felt the need to try to appeal to basic movie-goers who consider a horror film to be bad if it doesn’t make them jump out of their seat at least once or twice. But to be fair, most of the jump scares are at least being used to utilize something we as the audience are supposed to be afraid of and they do manage to stir in a few clever and ballsy scares in there too. Hell, with the opening scene even I was surprised they fully went for it.
But there’s a halting rhythm to things, an almost episodic quality that doesn’t help in creating flow or a real sense of the wider stakes. Characters are left aside, some are “introduced” twice while others not at all, leaving them somewhat undifferentiated compared to how they should be. There’s just way too much of one and not enough of the other, causing the story to get frustratingly suffocated in its own universe that was competently fleshed out for itself. Eventually, Warner’s intentions in engineering a big-budgeted franchise-spawning horror remake banking on the ongoing Stranger-Things-craze suppress the smaller moments where Muschietti and the writers do King’s vision justice, like when each kid’s personal villain gradually acquires the facial expressions and voice cadence of the infamous clown, performed with perverted glee by Bill Skarsgard.
Skarsgard’s version of the killer clown totally works. He’s scary in a way that feels totally otherworldly. The film does subtle things, like letting Pennywise’s eye slowly drift to the side as he coaxes a child into his sewer lair, that creates an aura of unknowable menace around the clown. Skarsgård goes for it, alternating between a being that is showing the children a form that will frighten them – and thus being very broad at times – and also the reality of that being behind the grease paint.
The Losers Club is led by young actor Jaeden Lieberher, who along with the charismatic Sophia Lillis and the rest of the gang give us performances worthy of much older actors, their emotive and sometimes funny interpretations not only make the audience truly identify with these characters and care for their well-being, but it also gets the viewer to see the mysterious events of the town of Derry from their eyes, and feel their emotions.
To wrap the review up I’ll say this; Movies based on Stephen King’s bestselling novels tend to be a hit and (mostly) a miss. It is a decent adaptation of a very long and dense book. The truth is, It probably can’t be adapted perfectly. The miniseries didn’t do it, this movie doesn’t quite get there, and even one of today’s longer, more breathable “limited series” probably couldn’t do it. It’s too weird, too reliant on the imagination, its scares hard to do justice, some of its story beats simply NOT ACCEPTABLE as filmed entertainment (if you really want to know this is what I’m talking about). But if you go into this understanding all of that, appreciating the decent work Muschietti and cinematographer Chung put in, and with the ability to recall the outsized emotions and fears and friendships of your own youth, then this should stand you in good stead.
‘It’ gets a 7.6/10
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
Follow me on Twitter for more random movie, comics & sports stuff here.
You can also follow my Letterboxd account to see my movie activity here.