It Movie Review
Floating is fun, except when Stephen King’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown says it is. The highly anticipated It remake is here and it is arguably the best Stephen King adaptation since 2007’s The Mist, an entertaining, creepy and deliciously funny horror film. It’s biggest problem: it isn’t nearly scary enough.
Like many children of the 80’s, I grew up with memories of Tim Curry’s Pennywise lurking in the shadows. Like many children of the 80’s, I haven’t seen the original TV mini-series in 20 years and remember next to nothing about the plot (I also hear the film is quite dated, as you’d expect from a 1990’s TV mini-series). I honestly can’t recall if I’ve read the book.
In short, I went into this new It, which is directed by Andy Muschietti (the so-so horror movie Mama) and features Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, with an open mind and a desire to see little children devoured by an evil clown-monster.
It doesn’t disappoint.
The movie looks beautiful and boasts a talented young cast, headlined by Jaeden Lieberher and Sophia Lillis. Unlike in 2017’s other Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower, the filmmakers take their time to establish the characters, setting and atmosphere of the story--three critical elements that many King adaptations over the years have struggled with. If nothing else, It does a terrific job of establishing camaraderie between its cast of middle-schoolers; you truly believe they’re friends, and they have a bountiful supply of sex and your-momma jokes to convince you of such.
It thrives off the chemistry between the “loser’s club” (save for one who I won’t name because he’s young, but who appears to be acting in a junior high play whereas everyone else clearly acknowledges they are in a major motion picture), which in turn results in plenty of laughs, sharp dialogue, and an overall fun experience. The movie feels like a Stephen King book, and there are plenty of Stephen King adaptations that can’t say that (looking at you, Dark Tower, what the holy fuck).
But It is a horror movie, and its success will live or die based on how freaking scary it is. And in reality, it’s more sinister than it is scary. Skarsgård delivers a wickedly devious performance as Pennywise, though in hindsight it would have been great to see what else he could have done with the character given more screen time. And while the movie boasts plenty of scary moments, It doesn’t come close to matching the intensity of many other recent horror films ranging such as The Conjuring or Ouija 2. Muschietti doesn’t quite have the patience to build tension despite plenty of opportunity; there are times he resorts to rather simplistic monster scares.
Then again, not every horror movie has to follow the same scare formula, and It is serviceably scary--just in different ways. Combined with the quality writing, good performances, and moody aesthetics, It is a delightfully morbid affair that’s worth a floating balloon or two.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.