When it comes to horror, Stephen King is regarded as being the master. Not everyone agrees with this, but there are very few people that would disagree that It knows which buttons to push. It is one of King’s most recognizable works due to his play with coulrophobia, otherwise known as the fear of clowns. I’ve personally read some of the book and I’ve seen the 1990 version starring Tim Curry as Pennywise. This version had its pitfalls and unfortunately brushed over some details that would have helped it stand a bit stronger as a film adaptation. For these reasons, I was a bit reluctant to see yet another Hollywood remake for something that I wasn’t sure even needed a remake in the first place. Let’s take a closer, spoiler-free look at what this remake offers.
The Good: All the kids played their characters extraordinarily well. Normally I’m not the biggest fan of children actors, in fact most of the time I’d prefer they not be in movies or shows. Nothing is worse than when you’re in the moment of watching a good movie with a solid performance from the entire cast, then some little shit jumps in and yanks you out of it with terrible acting. For this I can say that I was impressed to see all the kids own their characters and behave like actual, non-acting kids. I was also curious to see how Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things would follow up in It and he absolutely nailed it as Richie. He played the perfect little, wisecracking smartass that Richie is in the book which is a sharp contrast from his role in Stranger Things. Good things are on the horizon for him for sure, let’s just hope he doesn’t follow the road of other children actors, ahem Corey Feldman.
The story ended up being vastly different than that of the 1990 version, which in my eyes is a good thing and is also kind of risky. I felt that the first film captured the spirit of the book a little better even if it wasn’t perfectly executed. Overall though, I can understand why they made changes where they did. First being that the story is set in 1988/89 and the time lapse will bring us to 2016, allowing modern technologies to be a part of the story as well as making it generally more relevant to a younger audience. The key points were kept in place which made the minor changes along the way seem ultimately insignificant. The story still takes place in Derry, Pennywise is still Lord Commander of the sewers and the Barrens are The Loser Club’s stomping grounds. If anything, some of the changes add motives to character’s actions which I liked quite a bit (IE; Georgie’s fate, which if you’ve read 10 pages of the book it’s not really a big spoiler).
As far as the horror element goes, I wouldn’t really define this is being the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They did a fantastic job with the atmosphere and making each scene uniquely creepy, but 90% of the scares are predictable. That’s not a terrible thing because they didn’t rely entirely on jump scares (although there are a few) and they focused more on building tension through the course of the film. There was also plenty of variety in the ways that Pennywise antagonized the kids, and I do love a creative villain.
Speaking of which, I haven’t forgotten Pennywise, the star of the show. The biggest concern most people (including myself) had was that the costuming and characterization of Pennywise came off as too menacing and therefore not in the original spirit of what Pennywise is in the books or the original film. Despite his gnarly makeup and fancy Victorian getup, he had a lot of qualities that made him friendly to naïve children but just creepy enough not to trust. I was not disappointed in what they did with Pennywise and I loved his interaction with the kids in the final confrontation.
The Bad: I’m not one to nitpick too much at CGI since most movies have it now, but there were definitely a few moments that I felt weren’t necessary to use it. It wasn’t all terrible, but it was often used whenever Pennywise was around and there were some scenes that absolutely did not need it. Practical effects aren’t always perfect so I’m not saying that it’s the cure-all in this situation. The film seemed to rely very heavily on CGI and I’ll be curious to see how this holds up down the road.
As much as I like Richie, he’s also probably the sole source of the R Rating. The writers tried to throw in as many F-bombs as possible and I’m not entirely convinced that it was necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a solid R rated movie, but that’s a rarity in theaters now because most studios are afraid to lose money over it. For this reason, every instance of “fuck” in the movie felt somewhat forced just so that they could get the rating they wanted. Then again, most 13-year old boys usually don’t know how to communicate outside of using expletives (and neither do I), so maybe it was the appropriate amount of usage and I’m just nitpicking.
The Judgment: The first thing most people are going to do is compare this to the 1990 version and that’s fair enough because I’m doing the exact same thing. The overall film stands miles over the original version but that’s an easy hurdle considering all the bad parts of the original. Pennywise in both versions equal out and have their own strengths/weaknesses as the characters are portrayed, but the modern Pennywise does not disappoint. They’ve done an excellent job of drawing similarities from the book and the original movie, but telling a much fresher version and making it feel like its own movie. Shot-for-shot remakes are usually hit or miss, so I’m glad they took a different path with It. If you haven’t read or heard anywhere else, yes this will be a two-part movie. My ultimate assessment is that this is definitely worth seeing in theaters and I’m very much looking forward to Chapter Two!