IT Film 2017 review
I was in two minds about the recent adaptation of Stephen King’s work. I had read the book IT some time ago and it had been rated as one of my favourites not far behind ‘Salem’s Lot’ and yes, I’m probably the only one in the King universe to rate ‘Tommy Knocker’ as one of his best work. (It is interesting to note that there is a passage in ‘Tommy Knockers’ where two of the changing occupants of Haven believe they hallucinate seeing a clown in the sewer outlet in Derry watching them, a year after Pennywise’s demise). King is an industry in himself and his cannon of work contains some bad stuff (but as I always have said King at his worst is still better than most writers at their best, especially in this genre) as had some great adaptations of his work and some fucking awful ones that have graced the screen.
After watching ‘IT’ in the cinema I’m still ambivalent about the film. It as a ‘Stand by Me’ vibe about it, if the cast had all taken mushrooms and entered a universe with an evil clown demon. Apparently, it is also reminiscent of ‘Stranger Days’ serial that I have yet to watch. The Neibolt house is far too close to the house on the hill in ‘Salem’s Lot’ transposed to an isolated part of the township instead of mastery on the hill. Pennywise portrayal by Bill Skarsgard as had set a few ruffles ruffling when compared to Tim Curry’s Pennywise. Here Pennywise is devoid in many ways of the humanity that only Curry could convey to audiences; Skarsgard portrays Pennywise with an eerie alien feeling as if when you meet someone who are somehow at a subconscious level not all there, you know there’s something wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. Ok Pennywise is a demonic entity that feeds on children that translates to IT in the book as a giant spider, which is the last of its physical appearance that humans are capable of understanding; what he really is some sort of interdimensional energy known as the Dead Lights. The new Pennywise is psychosis given form. You can’t really laugh at Pennywise because he’s too alien, to psychotic. In some ways that’s a problem because he’s easier to relate to in the book and nineties tv series as his manic humour made a connection, but the humorous moments here are blend-in with maniac intensity that alienates the audience.
The narrative structure of the book intertwining between adults and children is absent in the film (risks are not Hollywood’s forte and given the disastrous turnover of remakes such as ‘Ghostbusters’ they tend to be more cautious. I think it is fair to assume that ‘IT’ will have the sequel unlike ‘Dark Tower’ that Sony tried to fit all eight books into one film creating a confusing narrative and angry fans). The original story IT in the book as a monstrous spider is stripped in the film (except in the showdown where he attacks the Losers with insectile legs instead of arms) to me a great shame – a bit like Macbeth without the ghost. Also, one of the things I was really looking forward to being adapted was Henry Hocksetter which in the book is a sub character that is every bit of intriguing as Pennywise. Henry was described as a rather slow boy with roman fingers and wondering hands, fashioned out of a wad of clay given boy form. As you can tell by the description not the appealing good-looking actor in the film portrayed by ‘Wen Teague’. Patrick at age five killed his baby brother and experienced joy and was well on the way to developing a full serial killer psychopathy before Pennywise got to him. In the film he’s just another bully, somewhat of a wasted opportunity.
The film ponders along at a nice speed with shocks, hand in hand with action. The children’s awareness that Derry seems to be ignoring to some extent the strange disappearances which is ongoing despite the curfew. There is an atmosphere of nastiness around Derry and certainly among the children who revel in bullying of the Losers. The cinematography is very good especially the opening sequences, it shows a middle America that seems not to exist anymore or at least less enchanting. We are told through the narrative of the film (the sequences of the Elementary school are somewhat reminiscent of ‘Donnie Dark’ but the pacing much more conventional). We meet each of the Losers exploring their experiences with IT. This film as some very good scare scenes and exacting CGI effects especially Pennywise jumping out of the photos from the machine imaging on the wall becoming real and very big in the garage.
At the end, there is a mystical showdown between the losers and IT in the form of a giant spider and in the film, this was diluted to a punch up with all the losers literally kicking the shit out of Pennywise. I felt that a lot of the epic scale of the book was lost.
The losers club was played well though I didn’t really like the way that Mike Hanlon ‘Chosen Jacobs’ character was almost side-lined where he played a much more important role in the nineties tv series and the book and this role was swapped with the Ben Hanscom ‘Jeremy Ray Taylor’. To be honest, I’m surprised the filmmakers didn’t play more up on the angle of the Reagan witchcraft hysteria that was formulating at around that time that was put to good use in the film ‘Let Me In’. However, the dialogue is superb the interplay between the Losers was smooth and not forced a hard job to do, but with the dialogue running smoothly especially from the comedian of the Loser’s Club, Richard Tozier ‘Finn Wolfhard’ we have all had, and sometimes it’s us, one of those friends who says what he shouldn’t say at the precise time he shouldn’t say it. And a couple of times it caught me off guard and I burst out laughing. Bill Denbrough ‘Jaeden Lieberher’ is well cast as stuttering Bill the leader of the Losers and the brother of the ill-fated Georgie Denbrough ‘Jackson Robert Scott’ who sets the film on in the beginning meeting Pennywise in the sewer outlet while chasing his homemade boat.
Beverly Marsh effectively played by ‘Sophia Lillis’ is enchanting and vulnerable in her narrative, that is playful and teasing, especially towards Ben who she knows has a crush on her, hiding an incest torment which plays out at the end of the film with her father attacking her. Stan Uris ‘Wyatt Oleff’ is a side character here and I hope he has more in the sequel as his death in the book gave a small but important part in realizing the true nature of IT.
The ending to me was not as well knit as the rest of the film and not sure how they will sequel IT. Bill here loses his shit and decides to have a showdown with IT endangering all of them in the process – when in the book they were almost herded into the sewers and IT’s lair by IT’s machinations and with the help of Henry Bower’s, who was by then insane and possessed by IT, and co chased into the sewers. The most controversial part of the book and is absent in both the film and tv adaptation was the sex scene between the Losers and Beverly, when they were after the first showdown, lost in the catacombs of Derry sewer system. This was replaced with a kiss from Ben when Beverly was caught in mesmerisation levitation trance by IT. Obvious reasons that in the nineties and now could not get away with Beverly doing fives up. I don’t think the film suffered from it. Though I do feel the ending was rushed. As always there are plot holes and inconsistency but these are not too glaring.
Overall, I really liked this adaptation of King’s work and look forward to the sequel in 2019 I believe that’s one of the dates mentioned. Highly recommended so enjoy.