Saturday, September 16, 2017

IT Review

'If you'll come with me, you'll float too'

It's been exactly 27 years since the original tv mini-series adaptation of Stephen King's IT aired. Fitting then, that the remake is released in line with IT's feeding cycle. Something the kids of Derry, Maine learn also happens to coincide with their town's grim history. After Bill's (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) mysteriously goes missing one rainy afternoon while chasing a paper boat, it's just the first in a series of regular disappearances. If there's one thing Bill and his friends can agree on, it's that they've been seeing some strange and horrifying things. A demonic dancing clown, amongst other things...

While King's novel and the original mini-series concentrates on the group of characters, otherwise known as 'The Losers' Club' as adults and kids, Andy Muschietti chooses to exclusively focus this chapter on the kids. From the get-go, it's made clear that the film won't be shying away from violence towards children, keeping its teeth (literally) as far as horror movie gore goes.

With that being said, it's never needless or excessive. There's some pretty excellent character development at work here too, with IT's unrelenting horror extending further than Bill Skarsgård's scary clown. We venture into the realm of some pretty dark themes, including but not limited to: child abuse, Munchausen by proxy, hypochondria, and bullying.

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The depths and layers to these characters makes it easy to root for them. Very few modern horror movies achieve this level of connection, which makes it so easy to identify with them as characters, and which makes the horror all the more affecting. The comedy and clownish one-liners coupled with the chemistry between the kids makes for a refreshing tone, which at times feels very similar to Stranger Things, or as many others have described it: Nightmare on Elm Street meets The Goonies. 

There's also something particularly eerie about the town of Derry. The indifference of the adults that inhabit it. Their callous, emotional detachment from their children's pleas. Whether it's Bill's father's anger at the manifestation of his son's grief, Mike's (Chosen Jacobs) father's unsympathetic reaction to his inability to slaughter a farm animal on command, or Eddie's (Jack Dylan Grazer) mother's stifling possessiveness - heck even the local pharmacist has something uncanny about him. Sophia Lillis does a great job of balancing Beverly's trauma with the effortless cool she uses to mask it around the gang. Another stand-out performance is that of Finn Wolfhard as Richie. He delivers his one-liners with ease, reminiscent of a young Corey Feldman as Mouth from The Goonies.

It has to be said that Skargård had some big shoes to fill. Despite those great expectations, he really inhabits the role of Pennywise. Though It's characterisation is much more stylised here than in its 90s counterpart, it suits the look of the film and adds a darker air of mystery to Skarsgård's more dishevelled Pennywise. Taking the form of each character's fear, it's never explained exactly what It is, making his random appearances all the scarier.

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All in all, Muschietti's IT falls into the rare category of film remakes that manage to surpass their originals. Even without comparisons, IT holds its own as one of the better horror films to be released as of late. It manages to have heart and humour, while also being unremittingly terrifying. Characters are fleshed out, and there's more to the narrative than just the frights. There's no protection or solace to be found in the adults and parental figures, who all appear shady or predatorial. The Losers' Club is forced to grow up and face their fears, both literally and figuratively, with nothing but each other to keep the beasties at bay.