Tuesday, 16 January 2018

IT ★★★★☆


As I mentioned in my review for The Dark Tower, 2017 was a mammoth year for fans of iconic horror writer Stephen King. Adaptations of his work could be found in the cinema and on TV consistently throughout the year, but there was one that was always going to be the most successful – and it was. But the success was far more than anyone anticipated - unadjusted for inflation, the film is the highest-grossing horror film of all time. I’m sure absolutely everyone with even the slightest interest in the film has already watched it, so there’s not a huge amount I can say. But, hey, let’s take another trip down into the sewers and see if all the hype is justified. This is It.


First, a little background. Blamed for the majority of people’s coulrophobia (fear of clowns), Stephen King’s epic horror novel was released back in 1986. Coming in at over 1,100 pages, it’s a difficult tale to adapt for the screen – despite being a cult classic, 1989’s TV adaptation starring a never-better Tim Curry is heavily flawed. But a sigh of relief was breathed when it was announced this adaptation would be split over two films; with the first one alone running for over two hours. At the very least, the tale won’t be rushed. But I don’t think anybody was prepared for just how good 2017’s It was going to be.

For the 3 of you left on the planet who don’t know what It’s about (I hope it’s cosy under your rock), the story follows a group of youngsters who must band together against a shapeshifting monster who can take the form of your deepest, darkest fears. Most famously, of course, it takes the form of Pennywise – the iconic, malevolent clown with a penchant for red balloons. But as the story progresses, the story is about facing the fears inside you. This adaptation is surprisingly powerful and poignant in its study of adolescence, grief and loss, and is far more than your usual horror schlock.

A film with a group of kids at the centre of it is always a risk – because, most of the time, kids are shit in films. Sorry, they just are. There are exceptions, of course. Jacob Tremblay is fantastic in everything, for example. But there are a lot of kids who are just rubbish. Thankfully, that isn’t an issue with It. Each and every member of the cast here is absolutely fantastic, with Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard stealing every scene as the comic relief Richie. But the most important cast member in an It adaptation is whoever dons the makeup and becomes Pennywise.


After Will Poulter left the project, the role of Pennywise went to Bill Skarsgård. There was always going to be concerns when a role made so iconic in the past was going to be portrayed once again, so it wasn’t a big shock when the backlash began. And in the end, he wasn’t remarkable – but aside from the Georgie scene, he didn’t have a huge amount to do. A lot of his performance was rather CGI-heavy, and this is where the film suffered. The final showdown sequence sees Pennywise beginning to show his true form, and while nowhere near as bad as the 1989 climax – it still wasn’t great. Pennywise is creepiest when he’s stood in the distance, staring, waving a severed arm or taunting you with his floaty banter. When he’s comin’ at ya like a crab, he loses a little bit of his creepy charm.

But this is just one of a few very minor problems that are totally insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The film, on the whole, is a massively entertaining old-school horror romp with great characters, exciting scares and some genuine laughs. It’s horror with a heart, delivering an experience that is so rare in the genre these days. It, or It: Chapter One as it is labelled at the end of the film, is just bloody good fun. 

Beep beep, readers! This one is unmissable.

★★★★☆
Sam Love

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