Hollywood has had quite a history with terrible adaptations, leaving viewers displeased, and with good reason. The plot either had multiple holes or edited to a point of unfamiliarity. So every time a novel is set to be brought to life, viewers are always in hopes that movie producers can do justice to the story. A well-loved and cult-favorite like IT was no different.
But with the brutally honest author, Stephen King himself, validating the big-screen reboot, it looked like it’s worth giving a chance.
When given that benefit of the doubt, it was easy to realize that there’s reason to fear IT .
The movie combined American horror film favorites such as scary clowns, monsters that kill children, young protagonists, a small-town setting, and numerous metaphors and parables for real-world horrors and the general untrustworthiness of adults. Add to that the use of 1980s pop culture references, noticeably a more relatable era than that of the 1950s in the novel and for Stranger Things-loving millenials.
The plot revolved around LOSERS, composed of seven young outcasts Richie, Bill, Eddie, Stanley, Mike, Ben, and Beverly, battling Pennywise, the Dancing Clown who emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town’s children. The movie opens with the haunting disappearance of 7-year-old Georgie, Bill’s younger brother, as he chases the paper boat washed into a storm drain. Peeking down the drain and believing that Pennywise would give him his boat led to dear Georgie’s death.
If the child-like, yet sinister look of the clown is not enough to freak anyone out, wait for his evil acts. He is a shape-shifting, bloodthirsty and flesh-eating clown dressed in a costume with Medieval, Renaissance, Elizabethan, and Victorian era influences, taking away children and feeding off of their fears.
Successful characterization made the scares even more effective. As King puts it, “To me, it’s all about character. If you like the characters… if you care… the scares generally work.” It also allowed occasional display of much-needed yet rarely included humor in a horror-thriller courtesy of Richie.
The coming-of-age aspect capped off the film well and surprisingly taught lessons such as courage and strength to confront fears in the shape of Pennywise.
But the latter part deduced itself into a not-so-horrifying film anymore, as carefully-timed and cleverly built-up jump scares became less terrifying. The opening scene, however, featuring Georgie being lured by Pennywise, remained a highlight heavy impact suspense and horror. As the film progressed, the background music somehow hinted and made obvious the exact points IT is about to scare the kid out of everyone.
The first few scenes portrayed terrifying suspense and horror, which quickly died down as Pennywise’s jump scare appearances became repetitive.
It also seemed like the movie was meant to come in two parts. Commercially, that’s obviously a wise move. Story-telling wise, maybe not. It’s like getting only half of what you were preparing for. But perhaps it’s too difficult to capture the entirety of Stephen King’s masterpiece in just two hours and 15 minutes.
What’s commendable about IT director Alex Muschietti’s work was in arousing its audience’s curiosity. It can leave anyone wondering how the second part will play out, assuming that 27 years forward means sewer terror in Derry, Maine would be set at present time. Who is IT? What happened to IT? What is IT’s origin? Why feed off of kids’ fears and why every 27 years? And did he die by the end of the film? With a sequel in the works, it’s most likely that he did not.
However average this horror flick is, surely a lot of people are willing to ‘float’, not just for the sequel, but also for a separate film on Pennywise’s backstory.
Photo from IGN