Allow me to preface this review by stating that I have read the book and would consider it one of King’s finest. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience attempt to represent myself as an unbiased party in relation to the fact that this is an adaptation.
Now, IT is deliciously exciting horror. One could call it a manifestation of the original material as a film, yet that’s not quite IT. This movie takes its time and burns into one’s mind, setting up the idea that terror may take many forms and can bring a sense of awe the likes of which I have seldom witnessed in recent horror films. I ought to make note of the impeccable cast, most of whom I had not seen acting prior to this film. Frankly, it’s rare for me to find a movie in theaters with a main cast so unknown to me. I suppose some might be concerned by this, yet I found myself hopeful and, afterward, impressed. The kids are delightful as a group of friends and convincing when IT pushes for scares, yet they seem to relish the convergence of such scenes. That is, I’ve seen far too many young actors who seemingly cannot handle juxtaposition of lighthearted scenes with serious drama or horror. Make no mistake, this is a film which will not disappoint on that front. Perhaps more significantly, the film is often quite comedic in its lighthearted moments, and these actors shine in this aspect as well. Causing laughter and fright with little time between is no easy feat. There’s a particular scene involving a choice of doors which had me in hysterics for longer than I could have expected. All in all, the dialogue is top notch, the comedy works and is fittingly sparse, and the children are nigh flawless in their portrayal of fairly typical children.
As a quick side note, the 1980s setting is aptly utilized without being relied upon too much for references or music. On music, the score was effective but generally unmemorable. I suppose it struck me as relatively generic. Beyond that, the sound used during tense scenes seemed distracting and overbearing at times.
Of course, any who have seen the 1990 miniseries may remember Tim Curry as the eternal Pennywise. Creepy, bewildering, and sometimes funny, he stole the show and arguably made the miniseries, to be blunt, watchable (at least for the first half). Let it be known then that Bill Skarsgard, while never, in this film, being funny in the slightest, pulled off Pennywise the Dancing Clown in such a fashion that IT will surely become a horror icon. Understand that this is, first and foremost, a horror film, and in that regard it is incredibly effective. This is the type of performance which causes a mass of theatergoers to be akin to the supporters of the home team when the opposing team scores; IT causes shrieks of despair in a surprisingly synchronized crowd.
Skarsgard’s Pennywise is a gangly, wretched creature of strange proportions, and he’s obsessed with contortions, wanting arms as meal portions. There’s a sense brought forth in several moments which tells the audience that Pennywise truly enjoys his clown facade, and that IT seeks amusement, perhaps over all else. This couldn’t be done so effectively without an astounding performance, naturally. Skarsgard himself deserves an award for this achievement; essentially, IT’s success surely hinged on the villainous clown, and with a less capable actor, I am certain IT would have fallen short. On the other hand, his actual design, with a combination of the occasional special effects and an outstanding costume/makeup job, IT looks just human enough to be terrifying in a grounded sense. At the same time, this monster terrified many adults, and would likely give some of them nightmares. There are few stereotypical (and personally loathed) jump scares as well, which was wonderful for me. However, IT is not for the faint of heart, as the classic horror style of building dread was remarkable.
The pacing of the story itself reminded me of Get Out, from earlier this year. I believe a relatively slow pace, with very low intensity for much of the run time, helped elevate the actual horror elements, especially toward the end, which is wrought with suspense.
There’s little to bring the film down, when I think about IT. This isn’t a perfect film, yet there aren’t any glaring flaws. IT adapts the book’s material quite well while taking some creative liberties, some of which are not to be berated. Andy Muschietti proves himself to be an excellent director here. This fits in the Wondrous category as a film which will be fondly remembered. IT nearly belongs as a Salient film, yet I find myself unable to compare it with similar work. Regardless, horror fans should flock to this flick. Johnny Depp should avoid IT, however.
IT is certainly worth the ticket price, and I believe that, for this particular film, seeing IT in the theater is a profoundly enjoyable experience. IT’s one of the better movies this year.