Thursday, September 7, 2017

Review of IT (2017): Fed by Fear

September 7, 2017

Stephen King is one best-selling author whose every book it seems gets turned into a movie, with varying results. His novels "Carrie", "The Shining" and "1408" have been turned into horror classics. "Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile," and "Stand By Me" are examples of dramatic gems that also came from his writings. This new film based on another King novel will probably be added among the best for both horror and drama genres.

It was 1988 in the town of Derry in Maine. Many kids have gone missing and cannot be found. One of them was Billy's younger brother Georgie whom we saw being attacked by a carnivorous clown who lived in the town sewers named Pennywise. All the other kids in the town, including Billy and his gang "The Losers Club" (bespectacled joker Richie, health nut Eddie and nervous Jewish boy Stanley) all begin to see their worst fears coming true. 

Together with other bullied kids in the neighborhood who also see ghastly visions of their own -- obese newcomer Ben, sheep farm boy Mike and troubled redhead Beverley -- Billy went to search for his brother in an old abandoned Well House where all the sewer tunnels converge. Pennywise himself is inside, eagerly waiting for all of them to come in so he can swallow them all up one by one.

The terrifying performance of 27-year old Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Dancing Clown realistically looked and felt like evil incarnate. I had seen some of Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise in the two-part 1990 TV version of "It" and that cemented my queasiness for clowns (if not outright coulrophobia). Because of the darker and more elaborate visual and sound effects at the disposal of this new film version, Skarsgård's Pennywise looked, sounded and felt even more sinister and diabolical than ever.

Aside from Jaeden Lieberher whom I had seen before doing excellent work in the film "Midnight Special" (2016) (MY REVIEW), all the rest of the kids are all unfamiliar to me. Despite this, all of them do very effectively in their roles to convey complex emotions, not only of fear and horror, but also teenage angst and individual character quirks. Unlike many child performers in other films, they never came across as annoying and cloying. For me, their group chemistry felt like that from "Stand By Me." There was also a Steven Spielberg vibe in the treatment of the children's stories.

Lieberher, as Billy, gave an impressive restrained portrayal of a loving, grieving brother. Also standing out was 80s Molly Ringwald-lookalike (a fact the script also acknowledged) Sophia Lillis as Beverley, whose "Carrie" moment was the stuff of intense nightmares. Cute chubby Jeremy Ray Taylor who played Ben, the Derry historian and secret admirer, was also remarkable for his subtle acting. Nicolas Hamilton, who played the violent neighborhood bully Henry Bowers, also made an impact with his moments of severe psychosis in this film's most upsetting scenes.

I will not spoil the gory details but I personally will rate this R-18 or For Adults Only. Even if the kid characters in the film are from 13-15 years old, the things some of them did were extremely unsettling and downright unspeakable. Speaking as a parent, I would not want my kids to watch these very disturbing scenes played out between these kids and their parents, all of whom were given pretty unflattering portraits, from cold to controlling to corrupt. More terrible was the frightening way how these kids actually settled this score with their folks. 

Even if I fully knew what it meant for the story, there was one particular scene between Billy and Georgie that for me is totally for mature audiences only. Seeing the absolutely adorable Jackson Robert Scott in that scene, I confess I could not bear to look at the screen, knowing fully well what was going to happen next. I was still aghast when it actually happened. I am afraid younger kids might take this sensitive scene the wrong way, especially because it dealt with two children who happened to be brothers. 

 Argentine director Andy Muschietti, whose only previous film was "Mama" (2103) (MY REVIEW), blurred the line between real evil and imagined evil. The real life horrors experienced by the kids were actually more dangerous here than the fantastic ones. Or were they all real? This film tells us that there was a difference between a child's reality and an adult's reality. In one scene, a child sees an entire bathroom splashed up with blood, but an adult does not. Which is real and which is imagined then? 

Such nebulous distinction of reality, coupled with the engaging performances of the kids, kept the suspense and tension afloat and made the whole story interesting to the very end, despite those disquieting elements I've stated above. Count this among the well-made Stephen King book turned movies. This film felt like it had closure, but it is just Chapter I. I am looking forward to see the promised Chapter II. 8/10. 


  1. That definitely sounds very frightening! The way you've reviewed it is very tempting for me to watch the movie.. I'll try to catch it!

  2. Nooo... i dare not watch horror movie. Coz I will have nightmare and hard time to sleep after that.

  3. I didn't read the review that much because I actually want to see this movie, but Ill come back and we will talk after I watch it :-).

  4. Good review. We're planning to watch this next week. Will pay attention to whats the difference with the old version of this.

  5. I am so excited to see this movie! Love reading your review!

  6. I used to read all the King novels but they got kind of scary for me! This one sounds very suspenseful and interesting though.

  7. I was expecting you to do this review this week. I have been a HUGE fan of the original movie for as long as I can remember. I have not seen the new one yet and I have to admit I am a little nervous because I am such a fan of the original. I was afraid the remake would be ruined like in my opinion Rob Zombie did with Halloween. Seems like from your review this one is still good. deep breath. Im going to go see it!