Isn’t it funny how sometimes the things you expect to flop sometimes show up on your doorstep with a balloon and a wax-coated paper ship and demand your attention. You’ll float too, they scream. You’ll float too.
Well dammit all to hell, if they weren’t right about this Stephen King adaptation.
Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard, Nicholas Hamilton
Director: Andy Muschietti
released on blu-ray January 9, 2018
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Audience Score 85%
The Guardian: ****/*****
Andy Muschietti is an Argentine director and writer, who has now directed two feature-length films – Mama and It. With a sequel to It, titled It: Chapter Two, currently in the works for release in 2019. Muschietti first garnered attention with his short film version of Mama, enough so that Guillermo del Toro took notice and became the executive producer for the version we have today. Muschietti has also been known to collaborate with his sister Barbara Muschietti, who took on a producer role in both Maman and It.
Muschietti received the directorial role for It after the departure of Cary Fukunga from the set, and luckily for us, he never looked back.
Taken from Wikipedia and modified…
In October ’88, stuttering teenager Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) gives his seven-year-old brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), a paper sailboat, but it falls down a storm drain. As he attempts to retrieve it Georgie sees a clown (Bill Skarsgard) in the sewer, who introduces himself as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”. The clown entices Georgie to come closer, then severs his arm and drags him into the sewer.
The following summer, Bill and friends (Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Stan (Wyatt Oleff)) run afoul of bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his gang. Bill, still haunted by Georgie’s disappearance and neglect from his grief-stricken parents, discovers that his brother’s body may have washed up in the Barrens. He recruits his friends to check it out.
“New kid” Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) learns that the town has been plagued by unexplained tragedies and child disappearances for centuries. Targeted by Bowers’ gang for being fat, he flees into the Barrens and meets Bill’s group. They find the sneaker of a missing girl, while a member of the pursuing Bowers Gang, is killed by Pennywise while searching the sewers for Ben.
Beverly (Sophia Lillis), a girl ostracized over rumors of promiscuity, also joins the group; both Bill and Ben develop feelings for her. Later, the group befriends homeschool student Mike (Chosen Jacobs) after defending him from Bowers. All the while each member of the group has encountered terrifying phenomena in various forms; these include a menacing clown, a headless boy, a fountain of blood, a diseased and rotting man, a creepy painting come to life, Mike’s parents burning alive, and a phantom Georgie.
Now calling themselves “The Losers Club”, they realize they are all being terrorized by the same entity. After an attack by Pennywise, the group ventures to a house with a well that all the towns sewers connect to, only to be separated and terrorized. Eddie breaks his arm, while Pennywise gloats to Bill about Georgie. As they regroup, Beverly impales Pennywise through the head, forcing the clown to retreat. However, after the encounter the group argues, with only Bill and Beverly resolute in fighting It.
Weeks later, after Beverly confronts her sexually abusive father, but is abducted by Pennywise. The Losers Club reassembles to rescue her. Bowers, who has killed his father after being compelled into madness by It, attacks the group. Mike fights back and pushes Bowers down the well. The Losers descend into the sewers and find It’s underground lair, where the bodies of missing children float in mid-air. Beverly, now catatonic after being exposed to It’s true form, is restored to consciousness as Ben kisses her. Pennywise attacks the group and takes Bill hostage, offering to spare the others if they let It keep Bill. After a brutal battle they defeat Pennywise and he retreats, with Bill declaring that It will starve during its hibernation.
As summer ends, Beverly informs the group of a vision she had while catatonic, where she saw them fighting the creature as adults. The Losers swear a blood oath that they will return to Derry as adults if It returns and destroy the creature once and for all. Stanley, Eddie, Richie, Mike, and Ben make their goodbyes as the group disperses. Beverly tells Bill she is leaving the next day to live with her aunt in Portland. Before she leaves, Bill reveals his feelings and they kiss.
It is an unpretentious character and this adaptation is an unpretentious film. Somehow Muschietti has taken a very dense novel and made it infinitely more digestible, and I’m hoping that he is able to book end the story the same way he started it. Or should I say It? I found it very refreshing to watch a story I loved as a teenager come to the big screen and do it better then the miniseries we all accepted for 27 years.
Pros: The acting of all of these youngsters is excellent, and the supporting adults do their part to keep the attention where it should be, on Pennywise and the Losers Club.
Cons: While the references to 1980s horror classics are strong throughout this film, and the tone of the film embraces The Goonies, Stand By Me, and other coming of age ensemble dramas, it never quite feels super scary. The stakes only raise so high. Which could be a symptom of a story told in two parts.
Runtime: 2 hours 15 minutes
Points of Interest: This was more of a fun fact for me then your average movie goer, but this adaptation arrived almost exactly 27 years after the original was made. Much of the dialogue between the actors was improvised and Jack Dylan Grazer helped write Finn Wolfhard’s jokes. This movie currently holds the box office record for largest opening weekend for a horror film.
It could be the update from 1950s to the 1980s or the higher production value placed upon bringing Pennywise and all his iterations to life, but something about this film feels a lot more considered and genuinely authentic in it’s approach to telling the collective story of the Loser’s Club. It might have also helped that cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon helmed the camera and maintains wider view of this world then the claustrophobic one from the 1990 miniseries.
In short, this movie is a highlight of 2017 film without a doubt, even if it isn’t genuinely horrifying to watch. By trading humour for scares, the story comes to life in a satisfying way – It is a very creepy adaptation and Bill Skarsgard deserves a place on the horror shelf for his rendition as the clown. Go find a copy of It and watch when you get a chance; you’ll float too.
And on a much lighter balloon… we’ve got an excellent Watch Culture video review up for your viewing pleasure! Featuring the talents of my Cross Talk co-host Chris Murphy, it’s time to dive into the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer!
Which also recently got a retread, with a couple of Netflix exclusive shows – Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. Chris unabashedly loves this movie, and I think after you hear some of his thoughts, you’ll want to check it out for yourself.