I’d best start off all open and honest – so full disclosure: When I heard this movie was being remade, I was… disappointed. Angry. Frustrated. And bitter. Bitter was probably the overwhelming sensation. Bitterness at yet another wonderful part of my childhood getting the “being shat on” treatment to bring it back from the dead. I followed the casting of Pennywise with interest, and the earliest releases of the new Pennywise ‘look’.
Stephen King’s It has a special place in my heart – both the movie, and the book. I remember being 11 years old, and I’d just discovered Stephen King. My school library refused to issue his books to kids of my age, and so I traipsed around second-hand book shops, slowly building up my collection. And for me, personally, ‘It’ was my favourite – just shading The Shining and Needful Things. To make matters even more complicated, I adore Tim Curry. He made Pennywise his own. The playful clown from the mini-series, able to “Peep peep” one minute, and put the fear of God into you the next.
And so it was with a degree of trepidation that I sat down to watch Stephen King’s It (2017).
It was unfounded.
The child-actors are superb, and immensely likeable. The movie is Stranger Things crossed with an adult Goonies, which is not all that surprising with its 80s setting, and dipping into the Stranger Things casting. Finn Wolfhard plays a wonderful “Richie”, full of humour and charm. Sophia Lillis does superbly well as Bev, succeeding in bringing one of the most important characters from the Losers’ Club to life. Jaeden Lieberher manages to keep Bill the right side of “annoying goodie-two-shoes”. The rest of the casting is well done, but I do feel those three really stand out. Of course, there’s one other very important role in the movie…
Bill Skarsgård playing Pennywise takes me back to the Batman movies, and The Joker. Jack Nicholson made the role his own, and there was a strong belief no one else could ever make it “theirs”. Of course, along came Heath Ledger, and the rest is history. The key to Ledger succeeding was his fresh interpretation of the character. He didn’t seek to copy Jack Nicholson; he realised that the character could be played in a number of ways. Nicholson made the character more playful; a charmer with a dangerous edge, whereas Ledger tipped his Joker over the edge; a darker, twisted character. Unlike Curry, there are very few occasions you can look at the new Pennywise and think “He’s a jolly little clown”. There is always a sense of danger and malevolence. He has an unusual speech pattern that is unsettling, even in his early attempts to be nice to Georgie. He also moves around in some rather unusual ways, reminiscent of everyone’s favourite young lady, Samara from The Ring.
The movie comes alive when the members of the Losers’ Club are visited individually by Pennywise, in his various guises. Sadly, there’s no Mummy or Wolfman here, book aficionados. I won’t give too much away as to how the meet and greets go down, suffice to say they weren’t especially scary, but they were well done. The special effects manage to remain the right side of CGI; the only “Jesus that’s nasty CGI” moment comes with the balloons, which I can live with. The Pennywise effects appear to be mainly practical and well-done, without making him particularly scary. (In my humble opinion – I’m aware that Pennywise is a lot more terrifying if you have an underlying fear of clowns). It is great to see horror movies going back to practical effects over CGI, as it retains a presence that no amount of CGI seems to replicate.
The story is clearly split into two parts; this first battle against Pennywise as youngsters, and I assume if the movie does well enough at the box office, a Chapter 2 where the Losers’ Gang reunite 27 years later.
So to conclude, I was very pleasantly surprised with It. It is not the scariest movie you will ever see, but it is well assembled, the young cast are quality actors, and Pennywise is very skillfully executed.
One small negative, although only a minor point from an anal fan, is that they don’t end up using silver against Pennywise. I can appreciate it is only a minor point, as the silver only worked as the kids “believed” it would work – but still, not forming the silver slugs was a plot point I remember fondly. C’est la vie.
Pros: I wanna build a rocket ship!
- It’s about as good a movie as it could be without Tim Curry.
- Special effects used well. Not all CGI!
- Great casting for the kids, and Pennywise.
- Good pacing. It still misses parts from the book, but covers a lot of ground in 2 hours 15 minutes.
Cons: It is all-consuming.
- Not as scary as I’d expect an “It” movie to be.
- Will er get Chapter 2? We will have to wait and see.
A thoroughly enjoyable movie; like catching up with an old school friend. They don’t look quite how you remember them, but once you sit down and get chatting it all feels “as you remember”. A wonderful cast of young actors, and a sterling performance from Bill Skarsgård make it a well-paced action movie; although perhaps not a terrifying horror movie.