Thursday, September 21, 2017

Movie Review: It (2017)

It (2017) - Directed by Andy Muschietti; Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman; Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard

By Kenny Howell

There has always been a stigma that Stephen King books, especially the horror ones, are hard to adapt.

King is a master at telling a story and creating mood with his words, which doesn't always translate on screen. His novels, sometimes, at face value, are a bit silly, but King is able to sell it really well. That has resulted in some good films based off his work, the ones that are able to establish a tone, but also some really, really bad ones.

Luckily, It belongs in the first category. It is structurally flawed, but scary and fun, which is really all you are looking for here. I am not sure that director Andy Muschietti truly establishes a consistent tone throughout, partially because of how the script is put together, but he hits the high notes of the first part of the novel, which is one of the rougher King stories. I mean, the first scene of the film is a 6-year-old getting his arm bitten off by a clown in the sewer.

From there, we meet The Losers Club, which starts as four boys - Bill, Richie, Eddie and Stanley - but quickly adds a new kid in school named Ben, a girl who is picked on constantly named Beverly, and a home school kid named Mike. They are all terrorized by a mulleted moron that drives a T-top Trans Am named Henry and his cronies, but they have bigger problems. They all start having nightmarish encounters of their biggest fears, with a demented clown named Pennywise also showing up in most of them. Ben has done some research, and the horrible things that happen in the town, numerous disappearances, mostly children, could be tied to the town's history. The group band together to head to the sewers to stop clown once and for all.

The first half of the film is quite choppy, as it plays out as just a collection of one scary scene after another that don't really move the story forward too much. They aren't all that scary either. It isn't until the kids band together and work toward figuring out where Pennywise is and how to kill him that it really gels and gets some of the more frightening scenes.

The key to It working is the kids since they are our conduit to the terror, and the main focus of the story. They are all terrific, including Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) as the stuttering Bill and Sophia Lillis as the object of all the boy's affections Bev. It doesn't work without them, and they all play their vital role. I wish we could spend more time with them in the sequel, which hopefully will be out in 2019, but it will alternate between the characters in 1989 and present day. Who will be back in full is Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde) as Pennywise. He is fantastically creepy, even though the make up does a lot for him, his movements and the way he speaks really makes Pennywise the ultimate monster for these kids to fear.

It is definitely not without flaws, but it does a lot of things well, and even though this works as a film on its own, it has also set up a pretty promising conclusion.

Rating: ***

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