I pooped a little. Just a little.
It is an interesting horror film because it’s one part a creepy slasher film, one part a supernatural horror film, and one part a mystery coming of age film all rolled into one. For those who have never seen the famed Tim Curry television series from the 80’s that ruined childhoods and created clown phobia nationwide, It is a well done movie. Not well done for a Stephen King movie, that bar is so low, it’s underground. It far exceeded my expectations and almost makes Stephen King allowing ‘The Dark Tower’ to be so bad forgivable. It is part of a planned two-film series from director Andy Muschiett, and writers Chase Palmer, Cary Fukungaga, and Gary Dauberman. This film is rare for a Stephen King adaptation because the writers of this 2017 remake actually required Stephen King to approve the script, otherwise they didn’t want to make it - wish that was the case more often (...maybe they read my ‘Dark Tower’ review *cough) But regardless, 2017’s It is the most true to the source material as it gets.
So much so that the movie producers and New Line Cinema pushed for a hard ‘R’ rating. There is good reason for that. This maybe one of the gorriest movies I have seen outside of a war movie like ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ or ‘We Were Soldiers.’ Plainly, the reason why the gore hits harder is because the violence is happening towards children. Good thing for fans like me, bad thing for the young little girl who sat a few rows ahead of me and will never sleep again. Watching gore for two hours straight, I am almost upset with myself that I could handle it. It is scary - without a doubt. There are a few good jump scares but the real creeps don’t come from Pennywise the Clown. The real creeps and unsettling feelings come from the implied child rape, animal cruelty and wince inducing bullying scenes. It is these scenes where a bully is cutting an overweight boy’s stomach with knife and laughing about it - that really made the entire theater cringe. But the bullying did feel real and the kids seemed realistic, as if I could totally see kids like that existing in the real world - and it almost made it more satisfying when Pennywise targeted the kids doing the bullying. Yes! KILL IT!
The stranger thing about It is the weird juxtaposition between really creepy scary stuff and a really innocent coming of age story between these high school age characters. We even get a fun 80’s montage where the kids are cleaning blood off the wall of a bathroom, and sometime after that we get a comedic rock fight that just makes the film feel...odd. Most horror movies give you a bit of downtime in order to ramp it up again helping you to relax before they juice it back up to ten. But it is in these moment where the acting really shines and it starts to legitimately feel like a 1982 ensemble kids movie like ‘Goonies.’ It keeps you on your toes because It is not like most horror movies where it has to be nighttime in order for the demons or slasher killer to come out. Pennywise can and does appear at anytime (to haunt your dreams) and that really helps the film ramp up the anxiety because you never know when it is gonna happen. Pun intended, not intended, whichever.
While watching It, I felt like the film fell victim to it’s own nostalgia. Not that the mini-series was better or anything, but because in 2016 we got the Netflix series ‘Stranger Things.’ A show that stylistically used the 80’s with period clothing, cars, and retro movies playing at the theater, to tell a story about a rag tag group of friends taking on an evil entity. They were also bullied, and had one female friend. The 2017 It remake feels like ‘Stranger Things’ but Stranger Things was influenced by ‘E.T.’ and the original ‘It.’ To such a degree that one of the main actors from Strangers Things, Finn Wolfhard, is in It. What I’m saying is that if ‘Stranger Things’ hadn’t come out, It would hit much harder and feel much fresher than it does. But instead it feels like somebody watched Stranger Things and thought that 80’s nostalgia vibe would stylistically work for Stephen King’s book adaptation.
One of the things that annoys me about certain horror movies is how often you see the antagonist. I have written about this before, but one of the reasons a movie such as ‘The Conjuring’ is so good is because we don’t see the creepy things a lot. It’s scarier imagining that they are going to pop out at any moment. As an audience member, you see so much of Pennywise on screen that his mere presence stops being scary as you enter the last third of the film. He’s still creepy for sure, but he stops being entirely scary because we get so much time seeing his creepy face creep around corners all slow like that you just get over it.
I liked this movie. This was a solid remake. But it was disturbing - mainly from all the violence towards children. If you are afraid of clowns, this won’t help. If you are not, you’ll sleep fine. That ten year old girl and her mother won’t, but you’ll be fine with the lights off. Just remember - you can float too...