It (Dir. by Andy Muschietti)
‘It’ is based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, which has been terrifying readers for decades. When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries. The film is Written and Directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama) and stars Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Bill Skarsgard, and Jack Dylan Grazer.
Expectations: I think it’s safe to say the everyone has high expectations for this film. After the monster hit that ‘Stranger Things’ was, it really hyped everyone for the 80’s setting of ‘It.’ Not to mention the widespread fear of clowns; how could this film not be a mega hit? With all of that being said, I for one was extremely excited for this film. I was ready to leave feeling as though it was one of the best movies of the year. But, was it? I will break format and tell you right now: YES. If you want to see the film, stop reading and go see it ASAP. Every word read is time wasted to get in your car, drive to your local theatre and see this damn movie. Still reading? Great. On with my review…
Writing: The first draft of the script was written by True Detective alum, Cary Fukunaga. After some creative differences, the studio brought in Chase Palmer and Gary Dauberman to do some revisions. One of my favorite things about this film has to be the writing. Each character is written with such confidence and you don’t doubt for a second that these characters would speak the words on the page. Yes, there are a few cliches; but, a lot of people forget that Stephen King wrote ‘It’ in 1986. Horror cliches were pulled from a lot of Stephen King’s work; so, it’s easy to forgive some of the “cliche” lines spoken by some of the children in the film. But, all in all, this was an extremely well written film about the pain of being human, the feeling of invincibility as a child and the true meaning of fear. I love this script, and am officially rallying for a nomination (because, why not?).
Acting: Another shining aspect of this film: the performances. Yes, we can talk about Pennywise all day; but, let’s talk about the performances of The Losers Club. The entire ensemble of child actors is absolutely spot on and has been praised heavily by King himself over the past few months leading up to the film. Honestly, when Pennywise was on screen in the early scenes of the film, I found myself wanting more ‘quiet’ time with The Losers Club. Their interactions make this film magical and believable in every way. There is is not a single weak link in this chain of young talent. Now, as far as Bill Skarsgard goes as Pennywise…fear not Tim Curry fans; Bill knocks it out of the park with his performance. Not only does he nail the voice, but, the convulsing motions of his body are indescribable. The one complaint I do have (that isn’t Bill’s fault) is that Pennywise has CGI eyes. This takes away from his performance slightly, knowing that his eyes were probably insanely expressive on set. Besides that gripe, across the board this performances were fantastic from everyone involved.
Sound/Score: Along with the eerie sounding voice of Pennywise, the rest of the sound design was captivating and haunting. The build up to the scares were not as tense as most modern horror films, but, when the scares hit they hit hard. You could feel them in your chest. The score was great as well, but, nothing special. Sometimes it was a bit overused in scenes that would’ve worked better with silence; however, I loved the retro feel of the score and how it channeled films of the 70’s and 80’s. I can speak further on this topic, but, I’d be creeping into spoiler territory…and, I wouldn’t want to do that.
Visuals: I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a sucker for practical effects, so, I was a bit nervous going into this film (as I am with everyone modern-day horror film) fearing that it would be CGI heavy. While a lot of the sequences involve CGI, it works for the vibe it’s trying to create. Every scene involving Pennywise and the kids is crafted to feel like a nightmare…and it absolutely does. The look of these sequences might be off-putting to some film purists; but, if you stop and understand why it was done that way from a creative standpoint, you will forgive it instantly. One of the things I mentioned previously was the use of CGI on Pennywise’s eyes. While some of it felt necessary to create the eerie glowing look; other times it felt a bit unnecessary when the eye decides to go a bit lazy from time to time. I’m not trying to spoil anything, I just feel that this is key information to know walking into this film…as it was my only real gripe. Other than the digital effects, the cinematography of the film was stunning. It truly captures the gritty period of time and horror of each sequence. The confidence in front of the camera is impressive; but, the confidence behind the camera shines bright.
Directing: Andy Muschietti is really only known for his film ‘Mama’, which came out a few years ago. Initially, when Cary Fukunaga dropped out of the film, I was a bit disappointed and concerned. I knew this would be a tricky film to get right…especially with how horror films are nowadays. But, I can now rest assured because Muschietti dominated this film. One of the most challenging aspects from a storytelling perspective seemed to be navigating from story to story while making each ‘Loser’ feel relevant and key. At first, the scares come quick and are relentless before we are back in ‘reality’ laughing along with The Losers Club. I was sort’ve lukewarm to this at first, but, it all falls into place quite fast as the film moves full speed ahead to the incredible finale. Without Muschietti’s skill as a storyteller, this film would’ve fallen flat on its face and would’ve become your typical run of the mill horror flick. If Muschietti wasn’t on your radar before, he will be after you see this film.
Wrap Up: If you can’t tell from this review, I fell in love with this film. It does justice to the source material; but, it’s more than just a solid adaptation. It’s a love letter to horror fans. This is a film that transcends the horror genre and becomes much more than a few cheap scares and contrived story. ‘It’ is a film about growing up and dealing with the monsters inside of others while dealing with our own monsters as well. While this film might not ‘scare’ you as much as a film like ‘Annabelle: Origins,’ it will shake you, disturb you and burn itself into your mind long after you’ve left the theatre. Calling ‘It’ a ‘horror movie’ is almost a disservice to the film. It would be like calling ‘The Goonies’ a horror film. However, if you have a serious fear of clowns, this movie will scare the pants off of you. I cannot wait for people to see this film, fall in love with it and talk about it. ‘It’ is what horror fans have been waiting for, what film fans have needed and proves that the ‘horror genre’ is so much deeper than it appears to be on the surface. Whether you’re a fan of horror or not, go see this film. It allows you to immerse yourself into a fascinating world that is sometimes hard to separate from reality, but, in the end leaves you wanting more (cough, Chapter Two, cough). I cannot wait to see this film again VERY soon, as I know it will just keep getting better and better.
‘It’ releases TONIGHT in theaters. Get your tickets now. Yes, right now.