May 27, 2024

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Geek Review: IT

Half of Stephen King's massive horror novel with a murderous clown comes to the big screen.

Stephen King’s work in the 80s is considered the man’s prime, though not necessarily the cinematic adaptations.

Considering what a dud The Dark Tower turned out to be, what about IT?

OK, coming from someone who normally avoids horror movies due to being rather jumpy in general about such things…IT delivers the goods.

Anyone familiar with the original novel knows King did a really weird, really compelling intertwining thing, where duel narratives plotted the group of Derry kids-turned-adults that called themselves the Losers as they did battle with the title monster, a shape changing creature that, every 27 years, comes up from the sewers of Derry, kills some children, and feeds off fear.  Derry is a freaky place as it is, as the narrative reveals, wait an ancient evil living in the sewers that most often takes the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard, brother to actors Alexander and Gustaf, son of actor Stellan).  Opposing him may be the only seven kids, all about 13 years old, who have finally more or less figured out what Pennywise is up and what he, or IT, might be.  They call themselves the Losers, school outcasts, and they are Bill, the leader with a bad stutter; Eddie, a hypochondriac with an overprotective mother; Richie, a wannabe comedian who isn’t all that funny; Beverly, the girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” with a bad reputation; Ben, the overweight bookworm newcomer; Mike, an orphaned African American living and working on his grandfather’s sheep farm; and Stan, the Jewish kid with the rabbi father.  As with the original work, the kids’ ages are significant as they approach adulthood, symbolically represented by moments like Stan going for his Bar Mitzvah or Bev wondering which box of tampons to pick up at the drug store.

But starting with Bill’s kid brother Georgie, kids are disappearing from Derry again, and each of the Losers comes across a particularly frightening thing that may or may not manifest as Pennywise.  Skarsgard gives a delightfully deranged performance, with a strong assist from the special effects that show Pennywise isn’t quite right, whether its a head that stays unmoving while the rest of his dances in place, or a pair of eyes that are slightly uncentered in a way that shows how inhuman he is, as neither eye is focused on the kid he’s speaking to.  Director Andres Muschietti and his screenwriters are only showing the kid half of King’s book, with the promise of the adult versions of the Losers coming back to maybe finish the job they started in a sequel.  As it is, most of the kids in the movie are relative unknowns aside from maybe Jaeden Lieberher as Bill (in a better movie than earlier this year’s The Book of Henry) and Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard as the motormouthed Richie.  Some of the kids get more focus than others (Mike and Stan seem short-shifted in certain ways, a shame considering Stan’s role in the adult narrative), but there aren’t really weak performances, and even the non-horror scenes showing the kids being kids display an easy, juvenile camaraderie.  Really, this is a fairly solid production, and it’s been so long since I read the original novel, I’m thinking I should revisit it.  I know they made some changes (one really icky scene was dropped for incredibly obvious reasons…you know the one I mean if you’ve read the book), but I do recall much of the history of Derry originally coming from Mike in the original novel.  Here we get a lot of it from bookworm Ben, which does make sense, but would have given Mike more to do regardless.

Yeah, maybe this isn’t for those with a strong fear of clowns, but for anyone else, I’d give this a thumbs up.  Nine out of ten freaky flute players.