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[Review] – ‘IT’

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 8 September 2017 [USA]
 
Director: Andy Muschietti
 
Writer: Chase Palmer - Cary Fukunaga - Gary Doberman - [Screenplay] - Stephen King [Novel]
 
Cast: Bill Skarsgård - Jaeden Lieberher - Finn Wolfhard
 
Direction
 
 
 
 
 


 
Writing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Performance
 
 
 
 
 


 
Sound & Music
 
 
 
 
 


 
Cinematography
 
 
 
 
 


 
Editing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Visual Effects
 
 
 
 
 


 
Total Score
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


User Rating
4 total ratings

 


1
Posted September 13, 2017 by

 
Full Article
 
 

Review:

The concept of a horror remake is a worrying one. We have seen too many great horror films be chewed up and spat out by studios looking for an easy cash grab. You don’t have to look much further than 2016’s ‘Blair Witch’ to see evidence of this. Whilst the original ‘IT’ isn’t exactly looked upon with as much respect and admiration as ‘The Blair Witch Project’ many horror fans viewed it as almost blasphemous that Warner Bros. would even consider distributing a remake of the 1990 miniseries. On top of that, adapting a Stephen King novel to film is one of the hardest feats a director can face. When they succeed (in the eyes of the fans, not necessarily King himself), the film is often regarded as a masterpiece (see Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’) but when they fail, they tend to fail hard, and the film becomes an object of significant ridicule by fans of the original source material (the reaction to 2017’s ‘The Dark Tower’ is a fantastic example of this). Understandably, all eyes were on director Andrés Muschietti, waiting with cautious anticipation to see how his turn at adapting ‘the King’ would fare.

Set in Derry, Maine the film follows a group of young outcasts who are faced with the wrath of the shape-shifting terror Pennywise. The self-proclaimed Losers Club come together over the course of one summer break to overcome their worst fears and attempt to stop Pennywise the Dancing Clown from resurfacing from the sewer in another 27 years.

Muschietti’s film can almost be described as a coming-of-age dramedy gone terrifyingly wrong as the first quarter of the run time focuses on establishing the characters of the young and not-so-innocent Losers Club. Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jack Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff kick off the film as the original group of four best friends which only expands as we meet the other kids in Derry who are being ruthlessly terrorised by Pennywise. The child cast is phenomenal from Wolfhard’s cheeky and comedic Richie to Sophia Lillis’ troubled Beverly. Lillis is absolutely one to watch in the future. Her on screen presence is baffling and she manages to convey so much emotion through her facial expressions alone she steals every scene she’s in, even without dialogue. The chemistry that flows between the children is comparable to that seen in such classics as ‘The Goonies’ or ‘Stand by Me’ and the way that they interact with each other sets a tone of normality and safety which is more than unsettling when you know that the horrifying Pennywise could be lurking around any corner, or in any sewer!

The beauty of the film was, for me, the scariest part. It doesn’t rely on jump scares unlike the majority of modern horror films but rather uses imagery to create a whole new level of anxiety that is not felt when you’re just waiting ever so patiently for the demon you know is going to jump out of the darkness (I’m looking at you ‘Insidious’ and all of your sequels). Hiring Chung-choon Chung as the cinematographer for this film was one of the best decisions a studio has made this year. His shots are beautiful but unnerving. Chung’s incredible skill behind the camera manages to lull you into serenity and a false sense of security, making the wonderfully orchestrated scares all the more terrifying. There is one particular scene in the film that was worth the price of the cinema ticket on its own just for the visuals. If you have seen the film I’m talking about the sink scene in Beverly’s bathroom when she cuts her hair. That scene might even make it into my favourite scenes of the year, if not of all time!

There are a thousand questions around this film. How scary is it? Are there jump scares? Are the kids good in their roles? Does it follow the source material? But the big question, the one that everyone is desperate for an answer to is whether Bill Skarsgård is a good Pennywise. Tim Curry left some big clown shoes to fill after his turn as Pennywise in the 90’s miniseries. Whether you think the ‘IT’ miniseries was a masterpiece or a pile of flaming garbage, almost everyone can agree that Curry’s take on the Dancing Clown was pure nightmare fuel. His performance traumatised audiences of all ages with his sadistic grin and petrifying jolliness. But Skarsgård is more than just a “good” Pennywise, he is a force to be reckoned with. You can see Pennywise in every single movement of his on screen. His voice is no longer Bill’s, it is Pennywise’s. His stance is no longer Bill’s. His stare is no longer Bill’s. Everything about the completely unthreatening 27 year old Swedish actor disappears from his first scene to his last, leaving him completely unrecognisable as this utterly horrific character. I’d love to see Skarsgård in more big roles such as this where he can utilise his undeniable talent to its fullest extent. He truly is one to keep an eye on. Who is a better Pennywise is up to you to determine however, as both actors play almost completely juxtaposed versions of the creepy clown.

There are only two things I took issue with in this film. The first is that Cary Fukunaga’s writing starts off embarrassingly to say the least. The screenplay pushes the audience too hard to find the characters likeable, leaving a terribly awkward feeling throughout the cinema. After the first twenty minutes or so it picks up as the tone gets darker and the feelings for the characters no longer feel forced. After that it’s smooth sailing right into the sewer with Georgie’s boat and into the hands of Pennywise who is undoubtedly wonderfully written. The only other issue is the slightly overbearing score by Benjamin Wallfisch. Usually, I am a fan of Wallfisch’s work, especially in films such as ‘A Cure for Wellness’ and ‘Hidden Figures’. However, when it comes to horror I feel like he allows the expectations to take over. His work on ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Annabelle: Creation’ was much the same. Some of the pieces felt like one large crescendo, slightly taking away from the big scares that went along with his compositions. This doesn’t stand for the entire run time however, often times his score adds an extra portion of tension to the already disturbing scenes.

21st century horror films have led audiences to view a good horror as something that makes you jump even though you can predict what’s going to happen, something that makes you feel scared of the dark for a few hours after you watch it but is, ultimately, forgettable until you watch the next one. ‘IT’ feels like the reinvention of modern horror. Muschietti works on shock factor rather than stereotypical scares in this film. He doesn’t recycle scary movie tropes, you can’t tell that something is going to scare you just because a light flickered. It’s unpredictable and that’s what makes it so horrifying. The entire cast and crew of this film have created something that can, honestly, be described as sick and twisted. It’s horror in its purest form, reminiscent of the good old days of quality scares with added special effects and stellar direction.

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Written by:

Nanci Rawsthorne
@nanci_lwt

Letterboxd
Freelance Contributor

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One Comment


  1.  
    Ben

    The debate rages in my house regarding whether the former or latter version of IT is superior. This article perfectly captures my stance (only articulated in to a much higher standard!).





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