It is easily my most anticipated movie of the year. Easily. I don’t do opening weekends (especially not opening NIGHTS), but I went on Saturday evening. I booked the tickets and reserved our seats on Wednesday night. That’s how excited I was for this particular film.
Since I was a kid, my favourite author has always been Stephen King. I don’t have all of his books, but I have a pretty significant collection including the Bachman Books (printed with the short story Rage that has been pulled out of print due to school shootings, but is nonetheless one of my favourite works of King’s). I read It when I was probably 11 or 12 for the first time. That’s the only time I got all the way through the book because, let’s be real, it’s 1,100 pages long. It is easily one of the most hard-hitting and well-written horror novels of all time. There’s so much involved and you get so invested in all of the characters, it’s hard not to get attached to the story, once you get into the thick of things. So naturally, my hopes were high… but not too high, because it is still a film adaptation of a King novel. The track record there has never been fantastic. Sure, you have some that hit it out of the park – The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, and Carrie (the 1976 De Palma version, of course) – but you also have the stinkers… like Maximum Overdrive, Children of the Corn, Dreamcatcher, and, more recently, The Dark Tower. I would say there are 3 bad Stephen King movies/shows/mini-series’ for every 1 good one, and that’s with a pretty lenient definition of “good.”
Luckily, I was blown away by this adaptation of It. Taking place in the late 80s rather than the late 50s, I think, was a welcome revision. And as for the monster himself, whereas Tim Curry played a very creepy Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Bill Skarsgard was much more menacing. Two Pennywises (what is the plural of Pennywise anyway?) that were both very good, but both vastly different. Skarsgard embodied the fear I felt as a child reading about “it” perfectly. I have a really hard time being physically scared by movies, so judging scares is a difficult thing for me to do, but there were a few that genuinely made me jump. One of those didn’t even involve Pennywise but a room full of clown dolls. I admit it, I’m afraid of clowns – they’re creepy and I don’t care what our local “Clown Club” says.
Since this movie, part 1 in a 2(?)-parter, focuses entirely on the characters as children, it was almost entirely children cast. This made me nervous because I don’t have good experience with child actors. Somehow they managed to find a great number of good child actors: Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough, Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, and Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak, and even Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers. I had a harder time with Chosen Jacobs who played Mike Hanlon… but then again, they basically cut his character down to nothing, which really kind of sticks out as a major failure of the movie. Mike is a big player in the story and I’m really hoping they bring him back to the limelight in part 2. Wyatt Oleff as Stanley didn’t really do much for me either. He kind of seemed unaware of what he was doing. There were multiple scenes where the other characters would be talking or hugging or something and he would just be standing awkwardly behind them, hovering, almost creepily.
One of my favourite aspects was the dichotomy between the adults and the children. The adults are the real monsters. Every adult shown – Eddie’s mom, Beverly’s dad, the pharmacist, Henry’s dad – they’re all foul human beings. It really emphasizes the children’s innocence and what a downright shit town Derry, Maine is (and Stephen King would be proud because he so obviously hates Derry).
There were tons of jump scares, and by the end of the film, you’re almost numb to them, but that’s okay I think. I mean, I hope it was intentional, because by the end of the film, the Losers aren’t afraid of Pennywise anymore, so why should we be? I just thought the entire atmosphere of the film was fantastic. The CGI was a bit much, and there were some unnecessary and downright bizarre story changes, but at the same time, there were some positive story changes (like no sex in the sewers, thank god).
All in all, I was impressed. My boyfriend, less so, but he’s never read the book and has never been a huge fan of Stephen King’s works in the first place (although is currently reading 11/22/63). It was a wonderful adaptation of a book that is pretty dear to me and it was relatively faithful to the story. I can’t wait to see what part 2 holds!