A new Pennywise straight out your nightmares, skillfully developed/characterized Losers’ Club, stylish direction + wild scares from architect Muschietti, and elegant tonal blending make the new IT a true horror/pop culture phenomenon. 8.8/10.
Plot Synopsis: When children begin to go missing in the town of Derry, Maine, neighborhood kids start to investigate and find that all the incidents have a common point: a mysterious clown named Pennywise. Banding together to find and confront him, discovering some of his history and dark connection to the town’s past, who will survive?
*Possible spoilers ahead*
A sadistic clown wreaking psychological havoc and fear on the residents of Small-Town-America. That was the monstrous check Stephen King and Warner Bros. sold us on when a new vision of the nightmare still lingering off Curry’s decent (although comparatively-tame) first take rocked mass media. The trailer breaking All-Time streaming records being viewed over 170,000,000 times and becoming the most viewed trailer in history in 24 hours, it is safe to say the hype could not have been more massive for Muschietti’s new blockbuster guising as a horror film. After the many Pantheonic Stephen King film entries like Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, and Carrie, I can’t necessarily say this is the best adaptation of the master horror-writer – but it is damn close. A new Pennywise straight out your nightmares, skillfully developed/cast/characterized Losers’ Club, stylish direction + wild scares from architect Muschietti, and elegant tonal blending make the new IT a horror/pop culture phenomenon.
Let’s start with the opening scene, and – of course – Pennywise. I would argue it is one of the greatest and most skillful horror sequences in genre history. What starts as a near exact recreation, down to exact details and cinematography, of the SS Georgie scene from the original 90’s miniseries and iconic King novel, it goes from a sweetly-scored bleak and rainy-cinematographed childhood wonder to horrifying and dark like the flip of the switch when we’re introduced to the man of the hour: Pennywise. Easily one of the most show-stealing performances, designs, and presences in modern horror, Bill Skårsgard’s Pennywise is straight out your nightmares. He is absolutely HORRIFYING, with a bite and sadistic edge thoroughly missing from Curry’s still-fine but comparatively-neutered/watered-down take on the clown while still matching his droll, wise-cracking presented persona. This Pennywise RUNS after you and psychologically torments your soul – with some of the most inventive and downright-messed-up sequences ever (devilishly) conconcted by brilliant architect/director Muschietti like the headless zombie chase, slide show, basement-Georgie, cattle-prod, Not Scary/Scary/Very Scary-doors, bloody-bathroom, and – of course – the SS Georgie scene. The psychological horror is some of the best I’ve seen since – and reminiscent of – King-family film The Shining, and the team deserves serious accolades for making one of the only things this century that has invoked such comparisons and level.
The Losers’ Club and tonal blends. Every single member of The Losers’ Club is skillfully characterized with serious depth and development, boosted by textbook screenwriting and perfect seasoned-kid-acting castings like Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame, Jaeden Lieberher who steals the show, Jack Dylan Grazer going on to see greatness in DC’s Shazam!, Sophia Lillis, and Wyatt Oleff bringing the characters to life more than just lifeless/personality-less hulls waiting for the slaughter as in much of modern horror. Indeed, we actually care what happens to them, and their interplay makes for phenomenal chemistry and a ragtag team of kids reminiscent of the glory and freedom of childhood we can all relate to and find nostalgic bliss in. The tonal blending accomplished here is simply unbelievable by Muschietti, using the characterization as a crux for downright-impressive juggling of genres in everything from a Billy-Bev romance arc/love triangle to coming-of-age themes to heart to 80’s nostalgia horror to wry-humour comedy to Sci-Fi, all in a 2hr15min breeze as swift as Silver.
Novel accuracy and scoring. Much of this signature, film-elevating blend of feels is due to It’s prodigal scoring just as varied and diverse as its genre switching. Absolutely poignant and airy in parts like the magnificent orchestral ending ballad to epically dark in horror scares to mysterious and ominous in others, the musicminds behind this adaptation lifted it to new heights sound-wise paralleling the inventive dystopia and great cinematography visually too. Beyond that, the film is spot-on in painting and hitting the high notes of King’s classic story too in an adaptation that just gets it. It even takes some ballsy liberties and changes to the script that make for much smoother flowing, like the decision to go against the beastial and CGI-Spider (yikes) angles of previous works into a still-form-ful ending that’s *exponetially* better.
A few flaws in It include a Losers’ Club (mostly Richie) constantly spewing obscenities nearly every scene. While it is part of the characterization perhaps going for immaturity and modern kid-talk, it is dramatically overdone, cringy and ghastly in some of the imagery that age should not be discussing, and jarring with a film based in child-horror that hits hardest when the kids are completely innocent yet terrorized like Georgie was. Funny at times if you can stomach this level of irreverency and black/hard-R comedy in Richie’s comments, it still becomes grating at times wearing for a questionably-belabored and poor choice burdening the film in the long run. Besides that, the end has a few clichés like Bev being rescued by true love’s first kiss (gag), and I wish there were a couple more scares and horror edge near the end. Henry Bowers’ character is also a bit forced in lashing-out daddy-issued bully – but these flaws are pretty forgiveable in the fantastic end product.
Overall, the new 2017 It is a massive achievement that feels like a TV series artfully masquerading in the guise of a film and one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever made (3rd behind Shawshank and The Shining in my book). A new Pennywise straight out your nightmares, skillfully developed/characterized Losers’ Club, stylish direction + wildly inventive scares from architect Muschietti, and elegant tonal blending make it not just one of the best modern horror films of recent memory, but a pop culture phenomenon.
Official CLC Score: 8.8/10