D.C.’s Take: “It”

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IT Remember those clown sightings last year, and how it was absolutely scary? The unfortunate people who have a deep phobia of clowns didn’t even get a fair warning before watching the news. Despite what you may think, that wasn't even a part of a marketing campaign for this year’s biggest horror flick: Stephen King’s “It.” There’s one lesson to be taught after being in the theater for two hours watching “It”: never go near a clown, even in a sewer. Because they will possibly kill you. When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, neighborhood kids band together to swear off Pennywise, an evil clown whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries. “It” is one of Stephen King’s most popular novels. Personally, I’ve never read it, and given the length of the novel, I have no interest in reading it. I do remember watching the 1990 TV miniseries, however. Does it still hold up? To be honest, it isn't as scary as it was back then. The first half is much stronger than its second half, when it gets borderline boring and downright disappointing. Still, at least Tim Curry as Pennywise was a riot and was, quite possibly, the best thing about the original miniseries. Fast forward 27 years to today. “It” was a horror movie that many people, including myself, were very much anticipating for a long time. The first trailer back in the spring is quite honestly one of the best I’ve seen all year, and it looks to be one of the most memorable adaptations of King’s work. But was all the hype worth it? Now that the hype is beginning to fade, it turns out that “It” is one of the best adaptations of King’s work to ever come out. And let’s be honest, it had to be better than the easily forgettable summer flop known as “The Dark Tower”. Director Andy Muschietti (“Mama”) does a terrific job capturing what made the book great, at least for those who read it, and he honestly knows how to create scares that don’t necessarily feel like the normal horror clichés. Muschietti’s scares take a neat turn, keeping the film at a normal pace even when Pennywise isn't anywhere to be seen. Muschietti does a great job at changing some minor things, while staying faithful to the source material. With his direction and the screenplay, by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, “It” felt truly like King’s story come to life. The most interesting thing about the film is that this release is actually the first part of a two-part film. This first film focuses on the kids, instead of having flashes forward to when they’re adults, like in the original book. Taking an interest in the kids and how they deal with the struggles in their town was a great story idea. Surprisingly enough, some of them are given a good amount of development. Hands down the best aspects of the entire film are the star-making performances of these child actors. This is a very well-acted film; the kids in the so-called "Losers’ Club" truly carry their roles on their shoulders. They act and talk how kids would in the late 1980s. In addition, all the characters feel real and relatable. Anyone watching could easily relate to any of these characters. The “Losers’ Club” is comprised of the following: Jaeden Lieberher (“St. Vincent”, “Midnight Special”) as Bill, the leader of the Losers' Club; Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, the “fat one;” Sophia Lillis as Beverly, the one female of the group; Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler from “Stranger Things”) as Richie, the loud mouth; Wyatt Oleff as Stan, the germophobe; Chosen Jacobs as Mike, the home-schooled black kid; and Jack Dylan Razer as Eddie, the kid with the inhaler. Each of them had amazing and likable chemistry with each other. Lieberher and Wolfhard, in particular, were my favorites. Throughout the film, you're rooting for all of them. Bill Skarsgård (“Hemlock Grove”) as Pennywise will be, unsurprisingly, the main reason people will have nightmares after they watch “It.” He was absolutely frightening and funny at the same time. This balance needs to be on-point; if he failed to achieve it, the film as a whole would be dimwitted. The way he speaks is just plain creepy. His physical performances, when he shows all his movements, gave me all sorts of goosebumps. He, in my mind, tops Curry’s performance. Even when just looking at promotional photos of him with that makeup (which is also great, by the way) puts shivers down my spine. Actually, what was really difficult for me was picking out who was scarier: Pennywise or the psychopathic bully? Moments with jumpscares work in full effect. Almost all of them were executed perfectly, while still feeling realistic, because “It” uses scary imagery to really grab you. There were two scenes that actually made me jump in the most genuine way possible. The scenes where they're building suspense are handled gracefully. “It” was given an R-rating because some of these scenes are not intended for kids to be watching. The cold opening alone was very chilling. However, no film is perfect. There are a few problems I had with “It.” First off, some of the scares were a little predictable. Secondly, the third act was slightly too silly, if only for a brief moment. “It” plays like a mixture of the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Stranger Things,” “Stand By Me” (another great King adaptation) and “The Goonies,” in the best way imaginable. I’m excited about part two, and to see a film focused on the “Losers’ Club” as adults. If Muschietti comes back to direct the sequel, that would be perfect. However, I’m cautious; I know how the rest of the book plays out, and I just hope the second installment doesn't become overbearingly dumb in the process. “It” isn’t quite one of my favorite movies of the year, but it’s still one of the best horror movies in a long time. In the end, “It” was a very solid adaptation of the original novel, with some well-timed scares, well-acted performances and overall just being a memorable horror movie. With the fall movie season in full swing, that’s not a bad start, in my opinion. “It” is definitely a terrifying and faithful take on Stephen King’s novel, carried with good characters and ensuing nightmares.
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