Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.
IT or: How the Losers Club learned to stop worrying and love the clown.
In the small town of Derry, there lives a monster. A monster unseen by adults and who only comes out of hiding every 27 years. The year is 1989 and the monster is back.
For many of us non reading folk, the first introduction to King and perhaps the horror genre itself, was the 1990 Miniseries adaptation of IT. Besides it’s litany of problems including a less than stellar second half and a piss poor ending, it’s still widely beloved amongst fans. The lion’s share of that love belongs to one man- Tim Curry. The rest of the cast is pretty spot on and they do the best with what they’re given but Curry is undeniably the MVP.
With his unmistakable voice and uncanny ability to draw you in while simultaneously unnerving you, he’s the live action personification of that hypnotizing snake from The Jungle Book. He’s a goddamn sorcerer and every word he utters is pure witchcraft. The man is a veritable rumpelstiltskin, weaving gold from thin air and his performance as Pennywise the dancing clown, might be his Fort Knox.
27 years after the miniseries aired, the world was gifted with another trip to Derry, and with it, another visit from everybody’s favorite dancing clown. After the original director left the project due to creative differences, Andy Muschietti, director of Mama, stepped in.
And I have to say, as much as I love Cary Fukunaga, I can’t imagine him creating a film as good as this. This film, not only lives up to the expectations made from the first one but far exceeds them. For one thing, the film is rated R, which opens the door to the intense gore and violence the story needs but also it helps define the character of Ritchie. In the first one, he’s just an annoying motor mouth that constantly needs to be told “beep beep” in order to shut him up. In this one, he’s a profanity spewing wise ass that has no filter.
He’ll literally say the first thing that pops into his head, which, more often than not, is vulgar. It’s a small change between their characters but I think it’s an important distinction. The rest of the losers Club is essentially the same with the exception of Mike, which I’ll get to in a minute
Cliff Notes version of the plot: IT involves seven adolescents being terrorized by a shape shifting clown that feeds on your fears. They must band together, confront their fears and take down the clown once and for all.
Narratively, it’s more in line with the miniseries than it is to the book. The general gist is the same between all three but there’s major and minor changes that have either been added or completely removed. Besides focusing solely on the first half, there’s also changing the setting from the 50’s to the 80’s, the shapes Pennywise turns into and the character of Mike are some of the biggest ones. Mike in the novel (and miniseries), is essentially the same character. He’s still African American, he still gets bullied by Henry Bowers and he’s still the last to join the club but in the novel, it’s Mike that knows the town history and not Ben. I understand why they decided to change that, to add a little weight to the romantic triangle between Beverly, Bill and Ben but in doing so, they completely fucked over Henry. Now he’s relegated to “black kid” and it almost makes his character superfluous. It’s a minor nitpick but it needs to be mentioned.
Besides the narrative shaft that his character gets, he, along with the rest of the Losers Club, are perfectly cast. You will sympathize with Bill’s quest to find his brother and you’ll completely understand why he’s so gung ho to fight Pennywise when everyone else is too afraid. You’ll desperately want Ritchie to shut the fuck up, which isn’t a complaint and you’ll root for Ben to woo Beverly even though you know it probably won’t work out for him. You instantly identify with these kids because you were these kids. In a time where Stranger Things has set the new gold standard for kid ensemble casts, I think 2017’s IT, blows it out of the water. And just like the 90’s miniseries having Curry as the MVP, I think this film’s secret weapon is Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh.
She is a goddamn powerhouse in this film and it’s a star making performance. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was awards talk come Oscar season. I know genre films never get nominated but I think her performance is that good.
But you don’t give a fuck about my Oscar predictions or whether or not Pennywise turns into a werewolf or the creature from the black lagoon. The only thing you want to know, is if Bill Skarsgård is a good replacement for Curry and if it’s scary. You’ve been reading this whole review thinking “when the fuck is he going to talk about the goddamn clown?” The answer is now. Now is the time, so calm your tits.
First things first, nobody replaces Tim Curry. The man’s voice alone is worth 3× it’s weight in diamonds. He could make a VCR manual terrifying. Having said that, Skarsgård is pretty fucking incredible. He doesn’t play him as a man dressed as a scary clown, he plays him like an otherworldly entity inhabiting the body of a clown. He feels alien. His only desire is to feed on these kids and delights in tormenting them. The entire film rests on his shoulders and Skarsgård easily carries the weight.
Now, the more important question is “Is this film scary?” And the only answer I can give is, horror is subjective. Did this film frighten me? No. But I’m also a grown man. There’s a reason Pennywise attacks kids, it’s way easier to tap into a child’s fears than an adults. He’d have to turn into my college debt to even come close to feasting on my ass.
Ignore the internet. This film may not be the scariest but it’s a crowd pleasing roller coaster that has some of the best constructed jump scares of all time. And one incredible scene involving a librarian. I highly recommend seeing this film in a packed house on the biggest screen possible.
Don’t you wanna float too?