*Minor Spoilers, mainly from the original*
The original IT (which is actually a mini-series rather than a film, which is why it is so bloody long!) is regarded as one of the scariest films ever made… at least at the time, and by people who saw it when they were kids. When you watch it as an adult, you realise that the film itself is pretty poor, long-winded, and the overall story is a bit confusing.
I am not overly a big fan of Stephen King horror books that have been adapted for TV or cinema. While the books themselves are brilliant, other than The Shining (which is only because of Jack Nicholson’s amazing performance), nearly every Stephen King horror film or TV show has been a bit naff. This does not apply to his non-horror stories; Stand By Me, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, etc, which are all masterpieces.
Anyway, so everyone knows IT. It (regular ‘it’ this time) is the film that made clown’s iconic horror entities. Pennywise, played by Tim Curry in the original, is a very well-known character (who is actually not in the book that much, yet seems to take centre stage), so a remake of this film does have big shoes to fill. A remake was always going to be on the cards, as over the last decade we have seen nearly every horror film franchise (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the Thirteenth, Poltergeist), other than Candyman and Hellraiser, be remade, and to be honest… most of them are pretty rubbish. None of them hold up to the quality of the original. While the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the best of the lot, nearly every single one of them missed the point entirely and just ended up making forgettable dribble to try and churn out as much money from something that was once good back in its heyday.
With that in mind, the remake of IT is actually okay. Having not been a lover of the original, I was not really expecting much, but by the end of it, I was enjoying it.
It is not at all a brilliant film. It is just as silly as ever, but that is down to the source material. I do feel that this is a very over the top dramatisation of what we have already seen before.
For example, the infamous opening scene where poor little Georgie follows his paper boat to the storm drain, only to notice the Clown who eventually takes him. In this version of the film, Pennywise rips off the kid’s arm before dragging him down into the depths of the Derry sewer system. It is a little unnecessary and it paves the way for the rest of the film, as it just feels a little over the top through out.
Nearly every character has their stereotype set to 11. The bully is just absolutely bat-shit crazy. One dad is full on rapey, rather than being a little awkward. The losers are PROPER losers. And sole focus of the film is Pennywise the dancing clown.
Where the book doesn’t have much of Pennywise, given the true reasons behind everything (Geroge was scared of clowns which is why he appeared as a clown), and the original mini-series put him in a bit of the limelight. This version of IT has Pennywise flying the flag and riding front and centre. He is the flagship for the franchise now and appears frequently throughout the course of the film.
It is not overly a bad thing, as a lot of people are scared of clowns, and so they will find this version of him quite terrifying, but personally I feel the subtly is gone.
Much like in the movie Annabelle (the movie and true story about a possessed dolly), the doll in the original story is just a raggedy Ann one, which is much scarier in real life if something so harmless in appearance is actually causing all this havoc, where as the one in the film is an over the top fucking terrifying version of it. It is just scary to look at, and like the Pennywise from this adaptation of IT, you would run a fucking mile if you ever caught sight of him.
It loses that luring into a false sense that Tim Curry’s performance gave. The original Pennywise doesn’t seem harmful at first, where as with Bill Skarsgård’s performance as the dancing clown, you can tell that he is going to murder you almost instantly.
It is a sad thing that happens with nearly every remake nowadays, as big money making Hollywood producers just try and milk whatever they can, and by making it as over the top as possible, they hope that this will answer for the fact that it is not written very well at all. Even though I did mildly enjoy IT, this is still apparent throughout whereby character do make some stupid and completely illogical decisions. Maybe it is because the story focuses around a group of thirteen/fourteen year old kids, that can explain some of their stupid choices, such as going into a sewer despite the fact they know that children are being murdered and taken down there (and some pretty freaky stuff telling them not to go), splitting up from one another moments after saying that they should stay together, knowing about how IT wants them alone and falling for whatever trick he uses to do this (such as constantly having George’s brother see his missing brother’s iconic yellow jacket and following him time and time again to some scary encounter), as well as just doing annoying things like perpetually leaving their bikes in the middle of the fucking road whenever they get off them!
One thing that did annoy me a little was that in the original, Pennywise says about how “They all float down here” to George, meaning the bodies of his victims but said in a way that he could be referring to his paper boat, however, in the remake, this phrase is uttered many many times throughout the course of the film, such as having echoing voices say it completely out of context, until you finally see the victims in the creature’s lair and see that, yes, indeed they do float, but I am not sure really why.
I think, again, that the main reason they have done this is because the line about floating is almost as well-known as Pennywise himself, and so they wanted to milk whatever made the film famous as much as they possibly could.
It might sound like I am hating on this film a lot, and that is not really the case. I was not enjoying it at first, but towards the end I did start warming to it. I did have to overlook the issues mentioned above to actually enjoy it, but there are some good things to take away from this.
The film does not rely on jump scares, which is a classic thing that all new-age horror movies focus on. Sure throw in a jump scare now and again, but do not put your eggs into one basket. If my cat jumps up onto the coffee-table without me expecting it, it could make me jump, but it is not horror. Scary faces suddenly appearing out of the darkness to shout boo is only going to make me surprised, but it is not going to feel me with dread the same way as clever build up will. Sometimes if there is no pay-off following an intensively built up scene can work wonders in a horror film. The Conjuring (2013) did this perfectly as you feel that something is about to jump out at you, but never actually does.
Anyway, my point is that IT does not use nearly any jump-scares to try and frighten its audience. Instead it focuses on the visuals. Staggering infected corpses in the dark, or Pennywise’s face peaking out of the shadows, or his distorted voice in general, so I have to commend the film for not jumping on the easy street.
With that in mind, is IT scary? I personally did not find it to be, however, it was still reasonably enjoyable. If you are scared of clowns, then the over the top version of Pennywise will possibly creep you out, but the film won’t have you running in terror and giving you nightmares.
It is worth noting that this film is only Chapter 1. This is only revealed at the end of the film, since anyone who has either read the book or seen the original mini-series will know that the story shows both the kids’ story of them trying to overcome their fears, and when they return to the town as adults decades later to take the creature on once more.
This film focuses solely on the children’s storyline, leading the adult one for another time. Which is a bit of a risk given that it might have done so bad that at the box office that they scrap the idea, but I think it did do okay, so I am sure that Chapter 2 will eventually make an appearance in the next couple of years to tell the rest of the story.
Thankfully this ‘half’ of the tale does feel complete. It has its own ending and so even if they do not make the second chapter, this film can be taking as its own thing.
Personally I think a second chapter/film would be very interesting and that, if done correctly, could help to mould this film into something better, so collecting both of them together in a series might help both films, because, at the moment, it is a little forgettable. Other than the interesting over the top change to Pennywise, everything else about this film is forgettable moments after watching it. I have had to read on Wikipedia to assist in reminding me about what I have just watched.
Another cool thing about a version of the film with the children replaced by adults is seeing what actors they got to play them.
Speaking of the children, it is worth noting that the girl, who looks like she is about 20, is suppose to be the same age as the little fat kid. When these two are on screen together, they look as if they are about 10 years apart.
Also, its clear that the kid from Stranger Things got paid the most money, or was the most well-known out of the lot of them, so he does get a lot of screen time and comes up with the most comical lines, however, he is funnily enough NOT the main character. That is given to the stuttering kid, who actually was cast really well.
There are couple of other kids from the ‘Losers Club’ who feature in this (the little Jewish boy and sickly kid who has the fat mum) but these kids do not manage to get the screen time that they need to make their character’s interesting. The black kid who does get a lot of back story and character flaws, does not get barely any screen time, nor does he have any real reason to join the other kids, so it did feel a little bit of a waste.
The main focus is the stutter kid (Geroge’s brother) and the girl with daddy issues, with the kid from Strange Things being a loveable comical side character who ends up taking centre stage.
This review has gone on long enough, so I will just say that all the parents are shit in this film. They are terrible human-beings who should never procreate.
So, overall IT is quite enjoyable, if not terribly flawed. If you are a fan of the original, then it is probably down to the fact that you have not seen it since it as a grown-up and can see how terrible it really is, but regardless of that, you will be interested in seeing the over the top version that has been created.
While it will not leave too much of a lingering thought in your mind after watching it, unless they do make Chapter 2 and it helps to shape this film, you will still enjoy this film the longer that you watch IT.