The works of Stephen King have become big business this year, with the Dark Tower, IT, Mr Mercedes and The Mist all being adapted for 2017 audiences. After the disappointment that was Dark Tower there was a lot of pressure on IT to deliver where Dark Tower hadn’t. But did it?
IT’s director Andy Muschietti’s decision to focus only on the children and their story during those younger years makes it a little neater than it could be otherwise and works well to highlight the great cast of younger actors they have for the Loser’s Club. By leaving the focus of it on the timeline when they’re still children it also evokes more fear and creepiness of the murders, there really are no adults around to help (Except for those given a little bit of time on screen that are wholly evil and cruel) and this situation is all new to them. But there is also something a little off, something is missing…and you know what that is? It’s large chunks of the book! I do get that this was a purposeful choice and they are obviously looking at a sequel to wrap everything up and cover what hasn’t been touched here, but it leaves the story missing a bit of context – and for die-hard King/IT fans it falls short a little because of this.
But saying that there’s something missing isn’t to say that the film is terrible, honestly after The Dark Tower I was concerned that this was also going to be a completely hollow adaption with little to no link to its source material, but that is not the case. There are deviations from the story and a focus more on getting good jump scares from its audience rather than the slow-burn terror that built in the book and TV miniseries, but it is still a very enjoyable film. Bill Skarsgard is visually pretty darn terrifying as Pennywise, in both make-up/costume and demeanour. It’s not as nuanced a performance for me compared to Tim Curry’s performance but it is most definitely up there in things that will keep me awake at night. The kids in the film give great performances, which with them being the sole focus of what we should really be calling IT: Part 1 is good because they don’t really have anywhere to hide.
The switch from the 50’s to the 80’s as the setting is interesting, it does give the whole thing a bit of a Stranger Things vibe and gives them the opportunity to use a lot of era-appropriate music for the soundtrack, but in my heart it does make the kids being quite as innocent as they are less logical. As media became more prevalent over the decades it feels weird that these guys would be quite as naive as they are living in the 80’s – but thankfully that doesn’t last too long. But in another way it also makes it more obvious why they’d have to band together as a club because you can imagine them being ostracized due to being less worldly than their peers.
I guess the most important thing to many is going to be the question, “Is IT scary?” – well it is scary for sure, but as mentioned previously it’s more jump scares than the build of tension and horror. The scenes don’t always flow as well as they could, feeling instead a little choppy and disjointed so even if an attempt to build fear the old-fashioned way it wouldn’t really work. But the jump scares are good, sudden and shocking which makes for a fun horror.
It’s rather hard to say much more without spoiling things, and as with most horror films knowing too much will ruin your enjoyment of the film (I say that even to those who know and love the source material – remember there have been deviations for this film). But IT is a solid horror film full of scares and great performances, the changes made work for what they’re trying to do here and really my main issue with the film is that I’d have preferred a longer film encompassing more of the material rather than the hope of a Part 2. LOTR and Hobbit fans have proven we will sit in a cinema scene for hours and hours; it would have been nice for them to take the chance and make IT that way. But I look forward to Part 2 (Which they had better damn well make now as we need the conclusion) and will likely see IT several more times before it leaves the big screen. If you’re in need of a scare coming up to the most wonderful time of the year (And by that I obviously mean Halloween), add IT to your list of films to watch – it won’t disappoint.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 A fun horror film with great visuals and jump scares, that’s just missing a little something.
UPDATE: I’ve just watched IT in 4DX and can happily bump it up to 5 out of 5, the syncing of the movements really help to build the tension into the jump-scares making it feel far more creepy.