A pretty R rated movie about a supernatural murdering clown. Also, the kid from Stranger Things swears a ton. There's also some horrible things that humans do to each other. Really, a solid R. An R that you could build your house on.
DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti
This is one of those indie movies. You probably haven't heard of it. (Okay, I'm going to establish the fact that "It" is a very common pronoun and multiple times through this review, "It" can serve for both a pronoun and a proper noun.) I'm joking, of course. This movie dominated pop culture for the past few weeks. Everyone's obsessed with it. You know the Halloween costumes are going to be really messed up this year with this movie that's out. What got me really jazzed is that it was apparently terrifying people. It was terrifying people who don't get scared at horror movies. I know that Stephen King's novel It is infamously one of the scariest novels ever. The mini-series with Tim Curry as Pennywise is also lauded as one of the scariest movies ever. So I went in ready to get messed up.
Okay, I didn't get messed up. I really liked the movie and there were some legitimate scares, but this movie isn't going to be a secretly passed around tape. (Tape, look at me. It looks like I come from '89 now.) I know exactly who it scares: people who are afraid of clowns. Me, I never had a clown phobia. Not a once. At best, I get anxiety when performers try to get me involved in the show. Mascots aren't my favorite. But clowns? Clowns are great. Is the movie wholly relying on the terror that is associated with clowns to get by, but you can get pretty far into this movie if you don't have clownophobia (coulrophobia, if the Internet is to be believed). Since I was on a Stephen King kick this summer, I audiobooked a lot of the novel before going to see the movie. The book is insanely long and I had to return it to the digital library, but I got many of the beats that were eventually used in the movie. This is where the movie got really smart. I know that Muschietti cut his teeth on Mama, which I hear is also great, but he really managed to find an awesome balance to this movie. Since I've seen the mini-series and have read most of the book, I was really prepped for a lot of the scares that were coming up. (I guess I should have prefaced this earlier. I was more ready than most for this movie.) Muschietti keeps the essential story beats of the novel, but changes how Pennywise messes with the kids, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes not. But he keeps the essential narrative while scaring the audience in new ways. I know that die hard purists want to see their scares onscreen. But that would have been completely boring for people who don't want to see the same things over and over again. The scares were significantly more authentic because they were a variation on a theme. That was awesome. The important relationships and plot points remained (mostly) intact. No, THAT scene is not in the movie. Perhaps that's what remakes really need. Most remakes are either slavish to the source material or trying improving on what has been done before with limited results. It really does something parallel to the original and I like that better.
I can't believe that I'm saying this, but I might be a hypocrite. I always thought that the imagination was way scarier than anything shown on screen. With the original mini-series, a lot of the scariness was left to the imagination because of budgetary constraints. People were happy with this, but I never found the original scary. I think that this is the first time that a movie successfully pulled off special effects that are equal to the imagination. SPOILER, the movie full on shows Georgie's arm eaten off. Normally we get a cut away or fade to black with an L-cut. Not this movie. It is full on established that Pennywise is a supernatural monster. That's great. I've seen the out-of-focus / shaky scary effect, but it really works with Pennywise. Pennywise almost becomes a creature or a force of nature than he is a character for much of the movie because of the effectiveness of the special effects. Part of me is getting bored with having to figure out what happened off camera. So while I normally applaud off camera gore, I think it works with It for some reason. I guess the special effects would have to be considered part of the mise-en-scene and as part of that, Pennywise's whole build is nearly perfect in that context. His makeup works so much better with Bill Skarsgård than it does on Tim Curry. Tim Curry is creepy and it works, but Skarsgård takes it to this whole other level. I don't think there are many perfect harmonic convergences like Skarsgård and his entire build-up. That costume, the makeup, the props, the lighting. All of that with that actor is absolutely genius.
I hope you guys are into horror because I'm getting all of the horror movies out of the way now for our October podcasts. The big podcast we are doing in October is the Nightmare on Elm Street franchises and I found the connections between It and the original Nightmare eerily similar. A lot of the same beats and motifs are hit between the two movies. If you are watching these movies around the same time, start making a checklist of similarities between the two. But the movie, perhaps unfortunately, also shares a bit too much with Stranger Things. There seems to be a little bit of coattail riding with It setting the movie in 1989. I know why they are doing it. They want to have the adult Losers in present day, but then casting Finn Wolfhard as Richie is very on the nose. (Apparently, the Stranger Things folks had to give Wolfhard a talking to because his newly found pottymouth. This is why I tell my mother-in-law that Olivia can't be a child actor.) The feel of the movie is very much like Stranger Things, hitting the plot points of a group of nerds in the '80s fighting against a supernatural creature that they can only see in a small town. I love me some nostalgia and the execution of this nostalgia is top notch. (Hey, Nightmare 4 was playing! Look at that synergy!) But I also like the idea that something isn't capitalizing on another work's success. Let Stranger Things be Stranger Things. I don't want to get burnt out on that formula. I kind of wonder if there was a discussion of keeping the movie in the '50s like the book was. There's nothing wrong with setting the adult Losers in '84. It's also odd how Finn Wolfhard has already been typecast for the rest of his life and he's only been in two things. Regardless, New Line Cinema knew what they were buying when they hired him, so can I be THAT mad about it? Probs not.
It is a really solid horror movie considering that we haven't gotten a ton of great non A24 movies lately. I love that one of the Stephen King adaptations was successful and I'll probably watch it a few times. Again, if you aren't scared of clowns, the movie will be scary enough without destroying you. If you are scared of clowns...well, I have no good advice for you.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.