IT (2017) Review
A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of clown, begins hunting children.
Stephen King’s novel IT was adapted in 1990 in the form of a TV mini-series. This film adaptation from Andy Muschietti features a higher budget, but once again a very creepy clown.
In the mid-1980s, a young boy takes a paper boat he and his brother had made together and floats it in the water running along the drain outside until it disappears into a sewerage drain. The boy looks in, and discovers a clown talking to him -- shortly, the boy disappears too.
His brother, Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), is unwilling to give up looking for his sibling as time passes. Another girl disappears and the town goes under a curfew, but after some research, Bill comes to the conclusion that his brother must have ended up in a certain area of the sewerage offshoot, and he could still be lost down there. He sets out with his friends, all a part of "The Losers Club" to find his brother, but what they discover instead is a malevolent force, a clown, an unknown entity that begins to seemingly hunt and mess with The Losers Club.
Tim Curry gave a memorable performance as the clown, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, terrorising a group of young kids in the '90s mini-series. Bill Skarsgård had big shoes to fill (pun intended), and in the film's early drainpipe scene, he is amazing. IT is scary, funny, threatening and unsettling, but unfortunately for the rest of the movie he is underused, or simply used incorrectly. The clown's conversation with Bill's younger brother in the drain pipe are the most he ever speaks to a character in the film and this is unfortunate, as Skarsgård really gives an incredible performance.
The Losers Club members are all fantastic and this young cast is the best part of the film. Bill is joined by Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) the new kid at the school; Beverly (Sophia Lillis), who is being accused of scandalous acts at school; Richie (Finn Wolfhard) the jokester; Mike (Chosen Jacobs), who is struggling to learn his family’s work on the far; Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), who is a bit of a germaphobe; and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), who is struggling to keep his Rabbi father happy. All the kids are absolutely fantastic and work great together, which was always going to be the most important aspect of this film to get right -- the believability of The Losers Club.
Some of the kids get more story attention than the others, which makes sense going forward to the (as of writing, unannounced) sequel, if you’ve read the book or seen the original mini-series. But still, each of the kids has their own little quirks, stories and dilemmas to make them stand apart. Bill obviously has the main storyline with the hunt for his younger brother, but Ben also has a hard start to his time in Derry before joining The Losers Club dealing with the town's bullies. Beverly, although accused of having sex with many kids in school, is actually the victim of an abusive home life with her father, which gives some of the more mature and realistic, darker aspects of the film.
IT is more creepy than scary. I never felt tension build to the level it should have and honestly, the original '90s mini-series built up its scares more than this version. Muschietti is heavily reliant on jump scares and the scary IT make-up and performance from Skarsgård. Even then, a lot of his performance is overlaid with mediocre CGI that can at times just ruin a fantastic performance.
Oddly the '80s inspired Netflix series Stranger Things, which Finn Wolfhard is involved with, does a better job of building terror, while also nailing The Losers Club vibe at the same time. Sometimes less is more, and IT doesn’t make the best use of its best features.
IT is a great movie with some great dialogue and chemistry that leads to some legit laugh out moments between the Losers, as well as some great drama. Bill Skarsgård is wasted, however, to the detriment of the film and to its overall scare factor. IT is still a great movie to watch, the cast is a joy and it’s a lot of fun - let’s just hope the sequel can make better use of Skarsgård.
Directors: Andy Muschietti
Writers: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman, Stephen King (based on the novel by)
Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lills, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgård