Film Review – It (2017) (Second Take)
It (2017) (Second Take)
I am not a huge fan of horror films but appreciate the fun in seeing them, especially when it has a compelling, original story behind it. The newest adaptation of Stephen King’s novel It has been a film both lamented by those afraid of clowns and excited those who love the story and/or are fans of Stephen King. I have read many of his novels and novellas, but never It. While I questioned why I went to see this screening, by the end of It (2017), I was glad that I took the chance.
The story of It centers on the town of Derry, Maine from 1988-89 as a demented clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) snatches kids and terrorizes the ones that remain. The film takes off after Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) goes missing. The audience knows what happened to Georgie, but Bill, his family, and the town do not. As other children go missing, Bill theorizes that Georgie disappeared down the sewer drains. Along with his crackpot team of friends including Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Stanley (Wyatt Olaf), the puzzle starts to become clearer. Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), and Mike (Chosen Jacobs) join “The Losers Club” later on. They become the sleuths and the heroes that Derry does not deserve. With Pennywise on the prowl and not stopping anytime soon, The Losers Club risk life and limb to put Pennywise back where he came from.
While fans may be flocking to this film to see how scared (or scarred) they can be by a terrifying clown, they are in for an unexpected treat. The script, setting, and casting all work together to pull off one of the more enjoyable horror films I have ever seen. While there is mystery, some gore, and jump scares, it is in the camaraderie and comedy of The Losers Club that will win the audience over. The script by Chase Palmer, Gary Dauberman, and Cary Fukunaga (originally the director) is fantastic, providing some of best one-liners, and expertly mixing light-hearted moments with nightmare fuel. Setting it in a small town of Derry, Maine and in the 80’s added atmosphere and nostalgia that took the story somewhere special that setting it in the present or in the original setting of the 50s would not have been able to achieve.
First and foremost, the casting of all The Losers Club teenagers and Pennywise is an amazing feat. To have a group of kid actors be able to steal the screen from each other every single time is like finding several needles in a haystack. While Lieberher as Bill is basically the main character, he is just as equally talented as Lillis as Beverly (someone cast Amy Adams in Part Two ASAP). While Lillis is quite beautiful with her red hair and big, blue eyes, being the only girl among boys makes her part a bit harder. She is the only one who is faced with growing up more than any of the other boys, both due to an inappropriate father and getting her period. Her period is brought up time and time again either by being in drenched in blood, having to sneak some tampons, or her “change” being noticed by her father and Pennywise. Never has menstruation been so often referenced in such a film. She is perhaps the strongest of the group, both due to her sex and her circumstances. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of Sophia Lillis in the future.
A quieter performance Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben is also worth praise. Being the chubby, new kid with no real friends, and having a love for the New Kids on the Block does not set up Ben for success, but Taylor takes it all on, every little quirk. He comes off as amazingly intelligent, thoughtful, and okay with being on the sidelines. He has a burning teenage love for Beverly and he is not afraid to hint at it. He is the smartest of them all, and it is his love for history that leads the group to where Pennywise resides. His portrayal of Ben is not something you would see from a typical child actor of his age.
Pennywise is indeed frightful and full of special effects that are not expected. Bill Skarsgård is in there, and the fact that he had to be made up as that clown every single day on set is a feat of its own. He was able to take an iconic character and make it his own, even with his own take on its creepy voice. This is a multi-talented clown, and while scary at the beginning, the effect wears off by the end of the film. He is no longer frightening, and this is from overexposure in the film, or on purpose to mirror the emotional journey the kids have with Pennywise.
While the runtime of It is 20 minutes too long and the scariest part of the film wears off by the end, it is still one of the most enjoyable films of the horror genre. For those of us that grew up in the 80s, it is similar in theme and tone to The Goonies, and that’s about as high a praise I can give it. It is much more than your typical horror film, and if the scary Pennywise clown is keeping you away from seeing it, you are missing out on one of the best films of the summer.