I’m fine not floating, thanks.
As you can see, I posted this on Facebook back in March, when we all saw and went a bit mental for It‘s initial trailers, with the first teaser getting almost 40 million views on Youtube alone. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed with the whole debacle and stayed unimpressed right until it came out. Then, I saw it begin to break records, like Highest Grossing Horror Film Of All Time-level records. THEN I saw the reviews, IMDb: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Metacritic: 70. “Shit”, I thought, “I’m actually gonna have to see this thing.”
The latest in a long, surprisingly long actually, line of Stephen King adaptations, It is warm coming-of-age tale set in the 80s (of course) featuring a group of outcasts finally standing up to their own demons and coming closer in the process, as a variety of wacky hijinks ensue. oH and the shape-shifting demon embodying said demons while sucking the souls and tearing the flesh from these innocent children while taking the tried-and-truly-terrifying form of a goddamn, motherboinking clown. WHAT FUN.
Taking place in the 1980s (BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY) in a small town, a group of outcasts, affectionately known as “The Losers’ Club”, begin investigating the uncanny amount of children disappearing after the leader of said group, Bill’s (or Billy, or Willyamm, if you’re feeling interesting) (Jaeden Lieberher) younger brother joins the missing allumni. Obviously, and I don’t think this really counts as a spoiler, these are all the doings of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a shape-shifting demon, taking the usual form of godawful, holy shit I want that thing to burn, JESUS CHRIST HOW MANY F*CKING TEETH, clown. From there on out, it’s all a series of big f*cking scaries. I don’t want.
Taking from the Stephen King book of the same name (which was also famously adaptated (adapted?) in 1990 with the only legend Tim Curry playing the titular bastard), the plot isn’t completely dissimilar than films like Stand By Me and The Goonies funnily enough, with a strong focus being placed on themes like friendship and overcoming demons. This, along with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, provides quite an amusing contrast with the proper shit-scary scenes throughout the film, which are built up in a mixture of psychological terror, suspense, gore and those all-important, jesus-forsaken jump scares. However, I also thought it kinda lacked a spine to it, and, on reflection especially, it felt more like a series of clips strung together by the overlying themes, although that might just be me.
Delivering on these scares is Bill Skarsgård (of the famous Skarsgård clan) in one helluva breakout role as Pennywise The Dancing Clown, and, boy, does he dance. Though I’ll always prefer a Tim Curry role to the alternative (sorry Laverne (although you can completely f*ck off for even trying (sorry Laverne, again))), Skarsgård’s performance delivered something that Curry didn’t; a proper evil bastard. While his creepy ass smile and eye trickery did help out, there was a very eerie presence throughout the film, and whenever you saw him on screen, you just knew something was gonna go down, and I, with this in mind, would always pre-emptively squint.
Something else that worked towards making me soil mineself was the really, really excellent cinematography (a good example of which is above) which used this extremely effective form of shaky cam to almost jolt up the intensity meter of certain scenes so that, while the imagery on screen is undoubtedly nasty (af, almost), you’re being dazed at the same time, so that effect feels more concentrated. I dunno if any of that made a lick o sense but oh well, you’ll know what I mean. Overall, though, the camerawork, editing and direction in general might have been one of my favourite aspects of the film, if not just because of how goddamn potent it was.
On the complete other end of the spectrum, however, It also managed to be, at times, gut-bustingly funny, with a lot of crude sex jokes being launched around the boys and a few running gags almost making you forget the horrific scenes set previously. The writing of these scenes, and the performances by the boys, were so on-point here and really lended itself to the surprising entertainment factor of the film.
The cream-of-the-crop of these performances though was easily Finn Wolfhard, known best for his starring role in Netflix’s Stranger Things (which is fantastic if you haven’t seen it yet (but you probably have, let’s be honest)), who, as Richie, had superb comic timing and, especially for a young actor, a strong, funny, stage presence. There were a number of scenes where he properly owned some of his mates and it actually had the whole cinema laughing, something that’s very rare in such an overt horror film as It.
As well as Wolfhart, we’ve also got Jaeden Lieberher as Bill, the film’s main protagonist, who played the role really well, actually, and showed a mature side in his performance that not many actors have so early in their careers. There’s also Sophia Lillis, playing Beverly. Though I was engrossed in her character, I thought Lillis didn’t particularly do it the justice it deserved, even if it was a good enough performance. However, the character of Beverly, in general, as well as her relationship with her father, could’ve done with a bit more padding out.
This is probably one of my main criticisms with It, there is a severe lack of character development and character filling-out, with the audience knowing very little about our protagonists throughout the film. While it was in no way film-ruining, it definitely would’ve helped me, at least, to relate to them more and care a bit more whether or not they were to be f*cked right up by a murderous jester. While I think the screenplay was entertaining, it was definitely lacked the technical ability I would’ve wanted to make this a more well-rounded and respectable experience, rather than just some really, really good fear candy. But then again, this is unsurprising when you see that the only horror movies on the 3 writers IMDb pages is the Annabelle films, which can piss off.
Sonically, the film chose the interesting combination of ominous string arrangements and New Kids On The Block, among a few other 80s-infused instrumentals. I wasn’t a fan of this as I thought, in a broad sense, that the film being set in the 80s didn’t really do much for it other than give it an excuse to pop in a few nostalgia bits n pieces, which is becoming quite a pet hate of mine (see my Atomic Blonde review). Unlike Stranger Things, something which It was definitely trying to bank on, the setting didn’t really bleed into the plot, which is another example of the poor structural integrity I was talking about earlier.
Overall, It was a surprisingly fine time. Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise stood out of the one of the most terrifyingly brilliant of the year, and the supporting cast, including Finn Wolfhart in particular, impressed me, especially being so young. I also adored the comedic elements clashing with some truly horrific and haunting moments, leading to a sleepness night I’m not ashamed to admit, with the film’s direction and cinematography lending itself greatly to the scares. However, the weak plot structure of It, with very little in the way of character development, left it floating in the realms of fun, a jagged fingernail away from being considered “great”.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations