IT (2017) – More than nostalgia, a great film in its own right

IT has been out for a little under a week but has already become the biggest horror opening of all time. The film was predicted to open to around $60 million but made that in it’s first day, beating out the previous biggest opening, Paranormal Activity 3. This huge opening shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, with the hype building for this film for years. Carey Fukunaga was one of the hottest directors in the world after his stint on Season 1 of True Detective, and he was the man originally charged with adapting Stephen King’s epic novel. Then, with 197 million views in 24 hours, the first teaser for IT beat out The Fate of the Furious to become the most viewed trailer in a 24 hour period. With a creepy new version of Pennywise the clown, fans of the book were excited, fans of the 1990 miniseries were excited and casual horror fans were excited. That brings us to IT being the biggest film in the world right now. But money doesn’t guarantee quality. With Andy Muschietti replacing Fukunaga in the Director’s chair, Bill Skarsgård taking over from Will Poulter as Pennywise, and the script undergoing several rewrites, there was a genuine concern that the film couldn’t live up to the hype.


In case you’re not familiar with the story, the film follows several kids from the town of Derry, Maine. All outsiders, they are affectionately known as the losers club. After the disappearance of Bill’s brother, Georgie, each of the gang start seeing all of their biggest fears come to life. Driven by his desire to avenge his brother, Bill convinces the gang to track down who is not only behind the disappearance of the towns’s children, but who is hunting them down one by one – the entity known as Pennywise the clown – in a bid to save their lives and the other children in the town.



When a script rests on the shoulders of several child actors, there’s always a fear that the film might suffer as a result. But that isn’t the case. All seven actors portraying the losers club do a fantastic job. You believe their relationships. They talk like real kids. You believe in each of their motivations and their delivery is spot on. I knew there would be jump scares and chills, but I didn’t know how much I would laugh during the movie. The exchanges between kids is genuinely laugh out loud funny, in particular Jack Dylan Grazer as the hypochondriac, Eddie, and Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard as the wisecracking Ritchie. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that IT has relatable characters when we realise that Muschietti’s previous film was the well-received Mama. That film wasn’t for me – I couldn’t buy into the CGI title character as a horror villain – but I did feel for the characters. So the fact you believe in, and ultimately care for the loser’s club, means that when the kids are frightened and terrorised by Pennywise, you buy into scares as well.



It’s unfortunate that Bill Skarsgård will be compared to Tim Curry, because there’s no doubt that there’s a whole generation of people who are petrified at the thought of Tim Curry growling “don’cha wanna ballooooon?”, but in my opinion, there’s no contest between the two. When you go back and watch the 1990 mini series, Curry stands out in what is, with respect, a lot of mediocre performances on par with a soap opera. I can’t argue that Tim Curry produced a memorable performance and is synonymous with Pennywise for many people, but Skarsgård’s Pennywise is just as good, if not better. He stands out in what is a well acted, well paced, scary film and it’s frightening how he switches from childlike laughter to menacing scream in an instant. I will admit that on two occasions I found it difficult to understand what he said, whether that be due to dubbing issues or that fact that Skarsgård couldn’t move his mouth properly due to his make-up, but this is a small complaint in a film that i’m struggling to find faults with to balance out the review. If that is my only complaint, it says a lot about how good the film is. Shot by Chung Chung-hoon, (Park Chan-wook’s regular Director of Photography), the film looks great and under Muschietti’s direction, the film strikes a great balance between humour and horror. Unlike another strong performing horror movie, Annabelle: Creation, I was never bored and simply waiting for the next big scare. I was entertained the whole time and felt immersed in the time period.


I have no doubt that the 80s settings and the shots of kids riding through the streets conjured up images of one of the biggest shows of this decade, Stranger Things, which also raised interest in the film. But unlike Stranger Things, it never relied on 80s nostalgia to engage it’s viewer. It’s not an exercise in working out how many movies from your childhood the film has referenced. I knew Stranger Things was like E.T. and The Goonies, I just didn’t care. I enjoyed IT for the world it created and the original personalities the kids represent. The closest the film gets to referencing your childhood is talking about a specific boy band or, for the eagle eyed, noticing that the local cinema in Derry is showing Lethal Weapon 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5. There was an idea floating around during development that Pennywise would manifest itself as horror icons from the 80s, such as Freddy or Jason – in the same way Stephen King’s novel referenced monsters from the Universal Monster Movies of the 50s –  but the idea was shelved by the Director which, in my opinion, was the correct decision as it would do nothing but take you out of the story. Instead of thinking “Holy shit! Look how scary that clown is!” you’d be thinking “Is that Freddy? Cool! I loved those movies!” And if any of the prank videos that have been released to coincide with the films release are anything to go by, a clown is scary enough by itself. This new version of Pennywise looks set to become the biggest horror icon of our time.

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