Before I start off this movie review, let me be totally transparent about myself. I can be quite the horror movie snob, and am generally unimpressed by the newer films released by Hollywood from the past several years. There have been countless remakes, reboots, and sequels, most of which have been horrible and so I have grown to be bitter.
I grew up with the original IT from the 1990s. It absolutely terrified me as a child (excluding the excruciating letdown of the second half), and has grown to be one of my favorite horror movies of all time behind the 1978 Halloween. That being said, I will admit it was hard for me to accept this new IT film, and I didn’t think I would be able to separate the two for a completely objective review, but I managed.
I know that 2017’s IT included more details from the book, but I haven’t read IT in ages, so my memory is a bit foggy. I won’t include any of my review based around this, and will just review it solely from a movie viewer’s point of view. I do plan on re-reading the book again and will post an update once I have the chance.
The book took place in 1958 while the 2017 rendition took place sometime in the 80s. Since the book came out in 1986, I really appreciated this detail to make it into something new. I am interested in how they will make the adult version since it will take place in the mid 2010s.
When the movie began I was immediately pleased by the wonderful acting of Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie) and Jaeden Lieberher (Bill). Their relationship was captured quite nicely, and you could sense the bond that they had. The scene where Georgie was running after S.S. Georgie in his yellow slicker was a nice nod to the original film, it sent me on a little nostalgia trip of my own. However, once Georgie got to the storm drain and Pennywise appeared, it was a complete letdown. The CGI during this scene didn’t carry over well and took away from the potentially horrifying scene that it could’ve been.
The introduction of the rest of the characters I thought was done wonderfully. Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) had a really endearing connection from the very beginning and I’m glad they had their own inside jokes happening throughout the movie. I liked seeing that Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) was a little firecracker, Beep Beep Richie (Finn Wolfhard) was as hilarious and unfiltered as ever, Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) was an uncertain nervous wreck just like I remember. I just wish that Mike (Chosen Jacobs) had more of a purpose in the film. He was someone the rest of the group saved from Bowers and his gang, and then he just faded into the background.
Let me break it down. There aren’t any crucial spoilers, just basic character archetypes and backstory that are also (for the most part) in the 90s film. If you haven’t watched the 90s film, it’s been out for 27 years, and the book has been out for 31. There are no excuses!
Beverly was faced with bullying from bitchy teen girls and abuse from her father. The group welcomed her in with open arms and made her feel loved. Bill was the leader of the group ready to avenge his brother Georgie, and was ultimately the motivation behind everyone. Ben, the new kid, was the one who found the history of Derry interesting and did all of the research which was obviously important to the mission. Eddie was learning how to get over his phobias, while also trying to escape the grasp of his Munchausens by proxy mother. His friends of course helped him through his various phobias. Richie, oh that glorious Richie, was the much needed comic relief in the group. Stanley was already a nervous kid, and at times tried being the voice of reason. Then there was Mike, who worked for his grandfather at a slaughterhouse who was also bullied by Bowers. The group of course rescued him, but he just faded into the background when it came to being in the group with everyone else. He had a dark history, but it didn’t really seem to affect him or add any additional character arcs to him in the film…which honestly is too bad because he was one of my favorites in the 90s film, but these films are two different entities so I digress.
Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) was an unhinged, vile character that made you feel uneasy every time he was on screen. I appreciated the sliver of Bowers’ dysfunctional home life that the audience gets to see. It briefly made me feel sorry for the kid, but of course Bowers being Bowers, he lost my sympathy real quick.
There were a couple adult characters that came off really kitschy and corny. Eddie’s mother, Ms. Kaspbrak (Molly Atkinson) was definitely one of them. She not only looked over the top, but her over protectiveness was out of this world as well. The pharmacist, Mr. Keene (Joe Bostick) also came off pretty undesirable. In fact, most of the adults gave a really off putting, creepy, vibe (for obvious reasons). In some instances there were pedophilic undertones too, which adds to the movie in an entirely different way.
The film was so heavily reliant on CGI, which was incredibly disappointing to me. In fact this was one of my biggest gripes. Many of the movies that I’ve seen in just the past 5-10 years have based majority (if not all) of their scares and horror creatures on these computer generated effects. As a viewer this takes me completely out of the moment. Whatever happened to using a lot of special and practical effects? Why do you think there are so many horror films from 20+ years ago that still hold up to this day? They used the talents of makeup artists, set designers, prop makers, and etc. to make things into not just a character, but a work of art. I understand that it probably takes a lot longer to do these things, but isn’t it more important to have quality over quantity? It’s not like it’s an under appreciated art form. I know special effects are still very much loved to this day, otherwise we wouldn’t have YouTubers like Glam & Gore or television shows like Face Off. I just wish in general-not just regarding this film, that things relied on the artistic abilities of human beings. I will acknowledge that it is incredible we live in a world where we can make wondrous things happen in film with computers. I will also acknowledge that there are plenty of movies out there that have BEAUTIFUL/HORRIFIC CGI effects, it just didn’t work in this one.
I wasn’t receptive over the high frequency of scare scenes either. It honestly felt like the scares were scene after scene after scene after scene. There was rarely any breathing room in between each of them for the scares to fully settle in. That’s something I appreciate about some of the most iconic horror films in history. They slowly build up to a good scare, and it leaves you thinking about it for a tremendously long time. Typing this out now, I can only remember a few of the scenes that were meant to be scary. HOWEVER, some of the moments that Pennywise inflicted on his victims were stunning. Beverly in the bathroom the first time was absolutely wonderful. It was probably one of the most stunning moments (in my opinion) in the film. The lighting, the camera work, the angles. It was like looking at a vibrantly horrific Wes Anderson meets Guillermo Del Toro inspired movie. I also really genuinely liked looking at (the first time) the thing out of Eddie’s nightmares. It was absolutely grotesque looking and I loved every moment of that scene.
I do wish that some of what was effective the first time wasn’t recycled so much in this movie. Pennywise had a tendency to do this Jacob’s Ladderesque, entire body jolting, run. They recycled that quite a few times in the movie, which got less scary as each one went on. Another one was that it seemed like Pennywise was eager to show off his “scary face” as often as he could. The more often you see it, the less provoking it gets.
The one thing that I disliked the most about this film was that they didn’t leave much to your imagination. They showed the aftermath of Georgie and they showed what Pennywise’s dead lights looked like. It could’ve gone without either of those. One thing that I really liked about the original (yes, I know I know, two separate entities) was that they didn’t have to show those moments for it to be disturbing. It’s solely up to the viewer to imagine what the dead lights looked like. Seeing Georgie’s little arm go into the storm drain to retrieve his beloved paper boat, while Pennywise shows off his razor sharp teeth were the only details you needed to paint the picture. To give another example, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. You didn’t have to see Marion Crane get stabbed to death in the shower for it to be impactful. Seeing her blood go down the drain was enough. I feel like a lot of horror movie directors nowadays think they need to spell things out for the audience. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s just unnecessary.
There was a scene with Richie facing Pennywise all on his own. If you pay close attention to it, you can see that Andy Muschietti pays homage to Tim Curry’s version of the clown. I caught myself gleaming at that for the rest of that scene. I’m really pleased with how Muschietti made this film into something of his own vision, but could also acknowledge his film’s predecessor, Tommy Lee Wallace. In fact, I’m really glad he didn’t try to outshine the original one and made this film into something completely new.
Overall, with it’s negatives and all, this film was one of the better horror films that I have seen in quite a long time. Not only was it beautifully filmed, every single one of the Losers’ Club members were incredibly lovable. Although I personally did not find the film to be horrifying or scary (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), I know a lot of people who did. If I could entirely sum up this movie, I would classify it as a feel good horror movie. Teenagers and adults alike can really feel included with this phenomenally relatable group of friends. This film isn’t your standard horror film. Every aspect of it feels like you’re spectating a group of great kids you know in a lovely dream world. Even though they throw in nonstop scares at you, and it can feel repetitive at times, I would definitely give this film an 8.5 out of 10.