IT Movie Review
I didn’t love IT
It has made over 300 million dollars at the box office domestically, and it is still making money. I saw it on a Sunday night and the theater was nearly full. The film cost a mere 35 million dollars to produce; this makes it one of the biggest hits of the year, of all time. Horror genre and Stephen King fans are especially enamored with the film. It is this “word of mouth” that finally got me in the theater for a film I had little interest seeing previously.
I haven’t read the book it is based on, nor have I seen the mini-series that aired in 1990, so I haven’t a clue to how closely the film follows the original story. All the trouble starts when Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) a boy of about seven loses the homemade paper boat he and his older brother Bill (Jeadan Leibeher) made during a New England deluge which creates small rivers in the streets of Derry Maine. When Georgie reaches into the sewer drain opening, he meets Pennywise, a freakishly scary murderous clown that visits and kidnaps children every twenty-seven years.
The film starts strong and there certainly is enough conflict to keep the audience interested. Bill, who has never gotten over the disappearance of his brother a year later finds himself part of a group affectionately called the Losers: a much maligned and viciously bullied group of friends. New to this mix is the new kid Ben (a stellar performance by Jeremy Ray Taylor), a pudgy, curious, and smart addition, who is the victim of some of the most unpleasant bullying I have ever seen on the screen. Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) a fiery, fearless teenage redhead who has a dismal home life at the hands of her abusive father not only becomes part of the Losers, but she is their most sympathetic ally and protector.
The middle of the film is a bit repetitive, and I found myself surprisingly uninvolved or not involved enough, emotionally. Too often it is a series of scenes of the Losers being bullied, and having scary ominous encounters with Pennywise, whose presence is usually preceded by a single red balloon on a string. There are too many of these encounters that are intended to build tension and warn us that danger is lurking and an encounter with Pennywise is imminent; but they begin to feel episodic. Perhaps that is the intention, to follow the book closely as it feels very novelistic here; but in any event seeing the clown so frequently does the exact thing it is supposed to not do, diminish tension. Something lurking unseen, but felt, might have been more affective. Too many incidents feel like they are intended to make the audience afraid, or feel doomed, but they don’t add up into anything in particular. There isn’t cause and effect in several scenes, momentum doesn’t push forward. The last fourth of the film almost makes up for the repetitive middle. Still not everything is clear when you leave the theater and a few subplots feel superfluous.
The music score and all technical elements help underscore the terror. The ensemble cast of youth actors is impressive and do great work here. The actor playing Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) is a marvel and if you haven’t been afraid of clowns in the past you will be now. Additionally the film handles the themes of fear, and the perception of fear very well. It is a mixed bag, and is a good movie about 50% of the time. It certainly would be more effective if it were about twenty minutes shorter. Attention Parents: I saw several under 17 age kids in the audience, most of them with their parents. This film is rated R for a reason and children shouldn’t be allowed. Furthermore the dialogue of the 13 year olds is loaded with curse words. If you bring your 12 year old, will they go home and start using the “F” world, like the 12 and 13 year old characters in the movie? I saw a parent trying to talk a ten year old girl down as they left the theater, saying to her something like “You said you wouldn’t be scared by this movie. You are all scared now.” The kid looked terrified.