Spotlight Columns

Buttered and Salty: ‘It’

By From page B2 | September 13, 2017

IT   *  *  *  1/2

R, 2 h 15 min – Drama, Horror 

If you are a fan of Stephen King and horror, this is the film you have been waiting for. “IT” is the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year.

After the dreadful “The Dark Tower,” the summer of 2017 redeems itself and closes with the best King adaptation in almost 20 years. This movie nails it on almost every level. I left the screening impressed that not only did they finally respect the source material in what is arguably one of Stephen King’s most popular works, they took their time in developing the characters, scares and even a few big laughs. 

To compare: “The Dark Tower” took elements from seven books and shoehorned them into one 90-minute movie. “IT” took half of a novel and made one 2-hour-and-15-minute thrill ride. 

For those unfamiliar with the source material: In the town of Derry, the local kids are disappearing one by one, leaving behind bloody remains. In a place known as “The Barrens,” a group of seven kids are united by their horrifying and strange encounters with an evil clown and their determination to kill IT.

It is the group of seven kids that I want to focus on for a moment. Whether or not you like this type of material, Stephen King writes extremely rich characters. That is why his novels are so long (the source material here is 1,138 pages). With a few exceptions, Mr. King’s penchant for detail doesn’t usually translate very well into a two-hour film. 

The smartest decision the filmmakers made was not forcing all of King’s tome into one movie. What we have here is half of the novel and the possibility of a second film. This isn’t a spoiler. The makers of this movie have been very clear that the film takes place in the summer of 1989 when the main characters are kids and the second film, should it be made, will be set years later in the 2010’s when they are adults. This allows the film to breathe, effectively introduce each character so we care about them, and give every single one of them the backstory and moments they all deserve.  

Smart.

The entire ensemble of young actors is great here. To focus on just one would be unfair to the stellar work they all did. You can’t have a successful version of “IT” without the friendship, young love and heart of the group of friends that affectionately dubbed themselves “The Losers.” These kids deliver all of that and more. 

I will give high marks to Bill Skarsgård who plays the nightmarish clown, as well. Following the great Tim Curry’s Pennywise performance from the 1990 TV miniseries was a tall order. Curry owned that role. Skarsgård absolutely crushed it here. Every movement, line and look is spot on. 

And for those who worry that all the scariest parts were in the trailer, you can rest easy. There were some extremely intense moments that I never saw coming, even when they were staring me right in the face. This movie earns its “R” rating, believe me. It’s gory and intense. Keep the kids away from it. 

The look of the film is 1980’s perfect. Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung photographed the film in a way that made me feel like it could stand side-by-side with films like “Stand By Me” or “The Shining.” Whatever magic formula he used to make it feel like a Stephen King film, it worked. 

The most surprising thing was not that this film successfully captures the thrills and chills of “IT,” but that at its core this is a very good movie on its own merits. Besides being scary the film is extremely charming and, dare I say, funny in several moments too. I couldn’t believe how much I was laughing at some of the dialog and antics between the main characters. There are comedies I’ve watched this summer that haven’t made me laugh this much. It’s a hard balancing act to jump back and forth from horror to comedy and keep a consistent tone throughout. Director Andy Muschietti nails it with casting and chemistry. 

I highly recomend this film. If you don’t like clowns stay away from this movie, though. Pennywise will find his way into your dreams with this one.

Joshua B. Porter is a Writer/Director/Producer. The most recent film he produced, “August Falls”, is currently available on Amazon Prime as well as other streaming services. He can be reached at @joshuabporter or [email protected]

Joshua Porter

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