IT is The Force Awakens of Stephen King adaptations. It’s decent in its own right, but relies extremely heavily on references and nods to previous iterations to keep it interesting. While there’s nothing wrong with giving a few shout-outs to fans of the original, when fairly important plot elements are reduced to 10 seconds of “hey, remember this thing?” it gets a little annoying.
A group of schoolchildren are pursued by psychotic bullies who want to murder them, while the adults in the town completely ignore their problems. There’s also a clown I think?
The opening scene was really well done, and set the tone for the rest of the movie
Everything with the “Losers” interacting and developing their relationships was pretty good.
The non-jumpscare Pennywise scenes were decent.
Pretty much all of the scenes with Pennywise just going around and spooking the kids were really stupid and repetitive.
Some of the “character development” scenes dragged on a bit too long.
A few of the kids (namely Mike and Stan) weren’t really given much in the way of development, and they barely did anything. The characters probably could’ve been combined to only have four or five leads, and the movie wouldn’t have been any different.
I also had a few questions about the plot like (Mad Spoilers Ahead):
- Why does no one ever seek help or report the bullies, even when they’re in serious danger?
- If Pennywise needs to spook the kids to feed on their fear before being strong enough to eat them, how is he able to take Georgie so easily?
- If, as is implied, all the floating kids in It’s lair are being drained of their energy (like in The Matrix), wouldn’t killing It have brought them back to life? I get that some of them are probably dead by now, but Georgie should have only been there for a few months, right? I mean, Bev was floating in It’s lair and the kids rescued her. Whatever.
- Why is it that sometimes certain people can see stuff but other people can’t but then those people see something later? Like I understand that It doesn’t appear to adults, and it likes feeding off of kids because they’re easily scared, but what about the bullies? We get a scene of them beating up Mike, and he can see Pennywise hiding in the bushes while they can’t, but then later Patrick sees It in the sewers. So can It feed off the bullies or not?
- If It can control other people into doing stuff, like murder, why doesn’t he do that more often? Like, It was able to get Henry to kill his father and go after the kids, which presumably created a lot of “fear” that Pennywise could feed off of, but this is the only time he uses that power.
- At the end of the movie, when the kids are beating the shit out of Pennywise, he begins to transform into various things to scare them, in an attempt to regain his powers. However, he just turns into the things that the kids hate, which causes them to become angrier and beat him up even more. Like he was literally there when Bev smashed her dad’s head in with a sink, but thinks it’s a good idea to turn into him now?
- Why do the kids leave their bikes in the middle of the road?
- Why did It choose to abduct Bev, even though she was the least scared of all the kids, and was able to resist him the most? He could’ve literally taken any of the other ones, and probably had broken them by the time their friends came to help.
Then again, I’m clearly too stupid to understand the complexities of a movie based on a demon clown monster that eats children’s souls, so I’ll back off.
Now I fully recognize the “oh my god the kids were so amazing!” circlejerk, but I’m 100% willing to hop on board. The kids were by far the best part of this movie; all of the actors did a great job. I was initially a bit concerned with how “unique” they would make them, given that every character can be described by one trait: Bill has a lisp, Eddie’s a germaphobe, Ben is fat, Bev is a girl, Mike is black, Stan is Jewish, and Richie’s a smartass. However, they were complex, engaging characters, and all of their actions made sense. While a few of them were underwritten, I wouldn’t say that any of them were written poorly.
One standout for me was Bill Denbrough, played by Jaeden Lieberher. I don’t empathize with characters in movies very often, but some of the scenes where Bill is mourning his brother were really emotional. I think it helped that Georgie was played by one of the cutest child actors I’ve ever seen in a movie, so his death was all the more sad 😢.
If the kids in IT were examples of well-written, complex, realistic characters, the bullies were… not that. The bullies in this movie weren’t just cruel, they were downright psychotic.
They shoot fire (using hairspray and a lighter) over Ben’s head before carving into his stomach with a knife. After he escapes, they try and chase him down. When they see Mike the first time, they knock him over and throw a lit cigarette at him, and later when they catch him down by the river, they start beating the shit out of him. In the last scene before the kids go to It’s lair, Henry tries to shoot Mike in the head with a cattle gun.
The bullies are so outlandishly cruel, that there’s even a scene where Henry tries to shoot a stray cat. Luckily his dad comes along to stop him, which brings me to my next point…
The adults in this movie are absurdly negligent. I understand that this is sort of supposed to be from the point of view of the kids, who don’t necessarily feel as if the adults care about them, but still.
When Bill tries to talk to his dad about Georgie, he’s told to shut up and leave. Eddie’s mom is uncomfortably overprotective. Stan’s dad just gets mad at him for being unable to read the Torah (shit’s hard, yo). Bev’s father is straight up abusive. Worst of all, Henry’s dad, who shoots a gun at him, is (implied to be) an alcoholic, and was so terrible that Henry murders him as soon as It tells him to.
Technically It, but none of It’s other forms really have any sort of personality. From my understanding, in the original Pennywise was supposed to be the happy, lovable clown that lured the kids in to eat them, which is definitely not the case in this movie. Pennywise himself is the creepy monster that eats children here, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a bad change. Bill Skarsgard did a great job playing the character, and I thought his voice suited the “creepy demon clown” role really well.
The dialogue in this movie falls along roughly the same lines as the characters. The kids all have really solid, realistic conversations which actually get pretty funny. Richie (played Finn Wolfhard, also Mike from Stranger Things) has by far the most jokes, but other characters get a few entertaining lines here and there.
The humor, like the rest of the dialogue, is realistic, which means that it mainly revolves around themes that 14 year old boys would find funny. Practically, the result is most of the jokes revolving around dicks, sex, or masturbation. This gets a little tired at points, but the delivery and the way that characters respond to each other actually seems pretty natural.
On the other hand, the dialogue from the non-children characters was super generic. The bullies basically just shouted insults and made vague threats. The adults constantly just said patronizing shit and chastised the kids for whatever reason. Pennywise was creepy. You get the point.
IT isn’t so much one movie, as it is two: a fun, coming-of-age story, and spooky clown slasher fest. As a result of this, the tone shifts extremely rapidly all the time. The movie goes from bright, perky outdoor shots, to dark, creepy indoor ones. The frequency of these changes get really annoying, as the movie never really lets up. It’ll start to become light hearted, and immediately come out with another god damn jump scare.
While some horror movies do benefit from having some sort of constant threat lurking in the shadows, creating tension, in IT, the monster honestly just feels distracting. A lot of the time I wanted to just sit back and take in the fun banter, but I knew that any second some fucking clown would jump out at the screen and shatter my eardrums.
Thank god this movie didn’t have a 3D version, because that would have gotten unbearable. Speaking of clowns coming at you…
I consider myself pretty susceptible to horror movies, and I did not find IT scary. Most of the spooks were telegraphed incredibly clearly, and the one or two that weren’t still fell pretty flat. In trying to scare the audience, this movie used 3 main techniques:
- Jump scares!
During the movie, I tried to tally how many jumpscares there were. I counted 24.
That averages out to one every 5.6 minutes.
I will give the movie credit for having some variety. While there were “traditional” jumpscares, with dark lighting, music fading away, and some sort of camera movement to reveal the spooky thing that jumps out (accompanied by a loud noise), some of them did break away from that.
There were a few times when a scene would begin to build tension, but the scary thing would come in the middle of the set-up, rather than at the end. The two most “potent” scares in the film were when there was some sort of payoff, and the scene would become calm, only for a scary thing to happen right after.
I do sort of appreciate the director’s attempt to mix up how he pulled off the various jump scares in the movie. It seems like he realized that showing a dark hallway and having the audience go “I wonder what that i- OH SHIT A CLOWN” wouldn’t work 20+ times.
Scariest thing know to man:
One thing I did notice was that in at least half the Pennywise scenes, after initially revealing himself, he came towards the camera. This was done in a really stupid way, as they used sped-up motion blurred footage of him shaking his head around which, while supposedly “scary” just made me think of Five Nights at Freddy’s. They also broke my golden rule…
Appeal to filmmakers: Don’t @ me
- Creepy shit
One effective way to spook audiences is to show them some really grotesque imagery (something something uncanny valley). The director, Andres Muschietti, used this a lot in his previous film, Mama. IT has some elements of this, but most of them look really… cheap. Even the creepiest things in this movie, like a twisted painting that comes to life to haunt Stan, looks fake. I’m not sure if this was intentional, to show that kids are scared by mildly disturbing images that wouldn’t necessarily be frightening to adults, but I’m going to assume it was due to budget constraints.
There was also some creepy stuff with Pennywise, specifically how his teeth became sharp and his mouth opened up really wide. The effects for this were dumb and it kind of looked like a porcupine was coming out of his face.
Before seeing IT I had read about how gruesome the opening scene was (where Pennywise drags Georgie into the sewer). The scene wasn’t actually that violent (although it’s possible that I’m just desensitized) but it definitely had gorey elements.
There were other instances of blood popping up in the film, such as when the Bullies slash Ben with a knife, and when Beverly’s sink starts spewing it all over her bathroom.
For me, the most off-putting part was actually at the end, when the kids all slice open their palms and make like a blood oath. On the other hand (the one not bleeding), I don’t think that scene was intended to be scary? Whatever.
The cinematography in this movie was pretty good, which isn’t surprising given it was shot by my mans Chung-hoon Chung. The opening scene, which followed Georgie as he chases his paper boat down the street, was gorgeous. The shot tracked him as he moved along really well, and all the cuts to wide angles or of people looking at him from their homes were done really fluidly.
There were also a few camera tricks that this movie used which I liked a lot. For example, when Stan finds the tilted painting in his dad’s office, there’s a dutch angle close-up of his face that become vertical when he corrects it. I’m sure this has been done before, but I thought it was a nice touch.
One thing I didn’t like about this movie was the constant use of spin-cam. Rather than doing the typical horror movie thing of tracking a character as they round a corner, and then showing something popping out at them, this movie had a lot of scenes where someone was standing still, and the camera would rotate around them until the spooky thing came into frame. This technique was fine a few times, but it eventually got old.
As I mentioned before, I thought the stuff with Pennywise coming toward the camera was largely unnecessary.
The last scene of the movie was really, really bright. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was overexposed (although it may have been), but it was extremely jarring to go from Pennywise’s dark, grey lair to a glaring outside shot. In fact, this transition was probably the most unnerving thing in the entire film.
Nothing reflects the dichotomy between the two tones that I mentioned earlier better than the sound choices. During the character-driven parts, the score is supplemental but not overbearing. By the time I actually go to writing this review, I forgot what it sounded like for the most part, but I do recall one specific dramatic violin melody that was used pretty frequently. I thought that the score in these parts was generally appropriate, and didn’t make the scenes worse. The music was also pretty loud at times, but it never overtook the dialogue.
The scary parts, on the other hand, featured some incredibly annoying sound choices. Pennywise’s entrances were often accompanied by children singing? And every god damn jump scare was overlayed with some sort of loud, obnoxious noise to “emphasize” how frightening it was. There were a lot of points in the film where the abrupt burst of sound was scarier than whatever it was accompanying. Because of how frequently the film pulled this off, it got really old and by the end I was just sighing every time it came up.
The sound design in this movie was ok. There were a bunch of “creepy noises” scattered throughout the film (creaks, thumps, etc.) and I guess they fit fine. Again, a lot of the scare tactics this movie used were really cheap, but it didn’t pull anything so over the top that I stopped taking it seriously altogether.
On a technical level, IT is a very competent movie. It checks pretty much all the boxes, and is pretty entertaining to boot. However, I just don’t really think it worked that well as a horror movie. I mean sure, it had a few “scary” parts, but they easily could’ve been edited out to make a nice, hour long story about a group of social outcasts who become friends 💗. Instead, the movie uses jump scares and other spook tactics so frequently, that it becomes impossible to just relax and enjoy. Obviously this doesn’t nullify any of the genuinely good aspects, but jesus christ did it get annoying.
Good for: Fans of the original, fans of Stranger Things, fans of Stephen King, people with 80’s nostalgia
Bad for: Coulrophobics, Bill Skarsgard’s teaching career
Bod R8s: 6.4/8