It, directed by Andy Muschietti, had me gleefully smiling from ear-to-ear, throughout. Front and centre in this film are a wonderful cast of characters, who thanks to some great balancing, end up being one of the most enjoyable aspects of the whole film, and in turn create a nostalgic feeling kids adventure film; with a serving of disturbing horror. It’s also really refreshing to see a large studio produce a horror film that feels like it was allowed to express itself how it wanted too. There is a clear level of respect and love for the source material and it all results in something that feels like more than just your run of the mill horror film. But what exactly is it about this film that makes it so enjoyable – seeing as it doesn’t really do anything new or original with the horror format? Well, let’s explore the film through this review and find out.
After the disappearance of his younger brother, Georgie Denbrough – played by Jackson Robert Scott – Bill Denbrough – played by Jaeden Lieberher – and his friends (reluctantly for some) begin to investigate the string of missing children in the town. What they stumble upon will be something that will forever change them. A shape-shifting clown named Pennywise – played by Bill Skarsgård – is kidnapping the children and feasting upon them. It will fall to this misfit band of kids to see that it is stopped.
When I first heard that, It was going to be over 2 hours in length (2 hours and 15 minutes to be exact) I thought that sounded like too much. Mainly because horror films today are unrelenting jump-fests where every few minutes they must remind you that the film is scary so they throw in a meaningless loud noise to keep you from forgetting. All it results in is fatigue. I was expecting It to be a tiring, tedious experience by the end. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The film takes full benefit of that time and puts it towards many of the standout qualities that this film has to offer. The aspect that I think benefits the most from the length is the wonderful bond that there is between all of the kids in the film, and subsequently the bond we the audience form with them as well.
There is a great amount of time put towards building out and developing all of the kids. You’re given the chance to get to know them all; what makes them who they are and what will be the thing that might tear them down when Pennywise inevitably comes for them. Now, I will say that when you look at the kids from an individual standpoint, they aren’t as layered as I perhaps would have liked. They all pretty much have a few defining traits and the film sticks to those. But the film is able to overcome that issue by, 1: having their defining qualities really cause you to care about them or like them and, 2: having those qualities come together to form a group of people who you genuinely care about and want to be a part of their journey.
It’s when they are a collective; bouncing off of one another and having an honest level of chemistry, that the film really comes alive. Each of the actors deliver brilliantly on their performances and they all play off of one another really well when together. I can imagine a lot of effort went into making sure there was believable and noticeable chemistry between all the actors before moving ahead with filming.
They are so believable as a group of friends. They talk to one another like any normal group of friends do; they make fun of one another, they say the crudest possible things and then high-five about it. But there is also something deeper; a connection that exists that makes it all feel so genuine. You really feel that these kids care about one another. Watching this film, you can easily see yourself wanting to be a part of their group, where you all go on adventures and make fun of each another along the way.
I think it is this aspect of the film, more than any other, that makes watching it such an engaging experience. You get the time to form a connection to the main group of kids, you can relate (or at least understand) their struggles and there is an authenticity to their friendship that makes being a part of their terrifying adventure such an effortless decision. And it results in a clever move by the makers of the film, as it lures you into a false sense of security. There were moments where I forgot I was watching a horror film and instead felt like I was watching a fun kids adventure film. And that meant that when the horror moments came bursting back into the film and I remembered what terrors were out there, it was all the more effective at eliciting fear from me. Rather than a constant onslaught of scares, I instead found moments of comfort and security; making the scares work even better, because sometimes I simply wasn’t ready for them.
The classic feeling adventure flick with kids riding around on their bikes in a small American town; solving mysteries and having one another’s back; fighting off unimaginable things, in a weird way felt comforting. It was like sitting down with a familiar experience that I had fond memories of and just being happy to be back with it. Many are comparing the film to, The Goonies and I can’t think of a better comparison. It’s like having an old friend (genre) back that has been away for too long and now that I’ve reconnected with it, I want it to be a regular thing in my life again. I suppose, Stranger Things season 2 will help fill that void now.
I mean, I was not expecting to be laughing as much as I was, when watching, It. The film offsets its horror with a nice blend of humour that really works well within the context of the film. The jokes make sense and never feel out-of-place – mainly because the film had taken the time to establish its characters and the tone of their personalities. It was actually a great reprieve from the more intense moments in the film. You could always rely on Richie Tozier – played by Finn Wolfhard – to ease the intensity of a situation with a perfectly timed and worded joke, which always had the audience laughing. It’s nice to see a horror film like, It make the decision to do this as usually they are very serious and very specific in the type of atmosphere they think a horror film should have – which is to say, they never have any fun, it is always serious situations with dull, serious people.
So, It does a good job of balancing its tone and developing its many aspects, but how does it shape up as an actual horror film? Well for me, it’s a mixed situation. The film is absolutely unsettling, and certain imagery in the film still resonates in my memory. And during the time of watching the imagery play out in front of me, it was all the more intense to watch (I certainly found myself perspiring more than usual when watching It) but I personally was never scared.
What I was watching disturbed me but it never truly scared me. But I think that’s less an issue with the film and more to do with the fact that I’ve been obsessively watching horror films from a young age and so I’m pretty desensitised to the tricks that are utilised to scare audiences. I was actually smiling more than anything else when watching the film and that’s because I was loving how everything else was being handled so well and it was being delivered in such an enjoyable way.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some unfortunate usage of cheap horror tricks. It unfortunately relied on some of the cheap tricks that modern horror films use to get a scare from an audience; unnecessarily loud noises in a completely silent moment or throwing an image of a monster/ghost etc. at the screen and calling that a scare. There’s no thought or creativity to it, it’s just to get someone to jump in their seat and think that’s what constitutes as a scare these days. These tricks are overused, lazy and very frustrating to a horror film lover like myself. Films like, Paranormal Activity perpetrate these things and muddy the water of a genre that I fight to still love. It did feel like the film was relying on them more than I would have like and it is perhaps another reason why I personally didn’t find the film to be scary.
There was also some unpleasant looking CGI used in the film when creating some of the more terrifying manifestations of Pennywise and I personally hoped the film would rely more on practicality, instead of CGI, but I suppose to keep the budget low, they needed to do that. I’m just being picky if I’m being honest. But speaking of Pennywise…
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to actually talk about the clown but here we are. First off: Bill Skarsgård is excellent as the clown. Much of what I found to be unsettling came from Skarsgård’s physicality; the way he acted with his face and how he made him sound. When he is up close to any of the children and oozing pure, untamed menace upon them, it is both wonderful and creepy to watch.
And I also liked that the film didn’t use him more than it had too. He shows up when he is needed; he terrifies everyone and then he leaves, but you never forget that he’s out there and could come back at anytime and anywhere. I liked that he didn’t only show up when it was dark, as having him show up no matter where it was or what time of day it was, created an unpredictability. Usually in a horror film when it gets dark, you know the monster is coming, but in this film, you never know when Pennywise will show up, which makes it all the more exciting.
I did not expect to enjoy this film as much as I did. I felt like I’ve been hearing about it for a long time – with the Cary Fukunaga (show-runner on True Detective, season 1) being signed on for a while and then him leaving and then Warner Brothers having to restart from the beginning with a new director and a new team. I thought the film would be a mess and simply go for the easy cash grab mentality that dominates the horror genre, but it wasn’t a mess, it didn’t take the easy route.
It is genuinely great to watch. It feels like a film taken from the 80’s, polished up a little bit (visually) and then released in 2017. It has so much that I loved, it took the time to play with everything it had at its disposal and it did it in a way that there’s something for everyone. You can see that there was a level of care and attention put into this film and when I left the cinema I was purely happy at what I had experienced.
I am absolutely recommending It. This film met my expectations and it also surpassed my expectations. This is a good horror film and an even better 80’s adventure film. I’m excited for what more of it there is to come.
I’d love to know what you thought of the film and what you thought of my review, so please leave any feedback, opinions etc. in the comments section down below. If you’re interested, you could follow my blog directly and also my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – as it will help to grow what I’m slowly trying to build with this little blog. But I’ll leave you now by thanking you and wishing upon you a great day!