IT (2017)

Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Nicholas Hamilton, Sophia Lillis
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writers: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch
Editor: Jason Ballantine
Based on the novel by Stephen King

Review by: Christoph Staffl

What is it about?

The book IT by Stephen King, tells two stories taking place in the small town Derry, Maine. The first of two possibly movies focus on the storyline taking place in 1957/58. A monster haunts Derry, Maine. It’s dressed as a clown and feeds off by the fears of children. One of the victims is Bill’s little brother Georgie, whose death is possibly one of the most famous scenes in the book – and the movie as well. Bill and his friends (Ben, Beverly, Eddie, Stan, and Mike) all encounter IT one way or another and have to face their most inner fears. Once they discover a pattern in the accidents that happened so far, they decide to take IT out. And the fight begins.

First encounters

The first time I read IT, I was about 14 years old. I remember quite clearly how I read it. In the dark, alone in my room with just one lamp shining onto the pages. I was terrified. Since those nights, IT is my favorite novel – besides The Stand. After finishing it, I watched the two-part movie and was quite disappointed how they handled the adult storyline and the ending. Since then I listened to the audiobook version twice. Mind you. It’s the German version of the book. If you speak German, I highly recommend listening to it. David Nathan speaks most of the Stephen King novels, and it is a masterpiece. The way he expresses the monster, the different voices of the children – it’s a unique performance, you will not forget. It haunts you.

The movie

The trailers for IT (2017) did a remarkable job setting the mood for we can expect. And, to be honest, they showed quite clearly where the focus of the movie lies. Not on the children, not really, but on Pennywise and his tight grip on the town. Every 27 years he comes back, terrifying the children and devastating the parents who lost theirs. Though the adults cannot see him or remember what he has done, the clown left his mark on their souls.

Derry is not a happy town. Every child has problems. Be it with other kids or their parents, being abused or bullied. The same goes for the adults. There’s no “normal” in this town. And by focusing on Pennywise and how he does what he does, you get a sense of what it must be like to live there. Feeling something is not quite right. Something is hiding behind every tree, every corner.

The task of transforming half of the over a thousand page thick book into a two-and-a-half-hour-long movie is impossible. You have to make sacrifices. In shifting the stories focus on the threat and just telling enough of the children so you can understand what makes them them, you can relate to their stories. This way the director, Andy Muschietti, was able to give the fans most of the key scenes of the book.

Let’s talk about the acting. Usually, child actors are a problem for me. Mainly because it can get cheesy or they are just not that good, and therefore the movie loses is the grip on you. But in IT they are perfect. The Loser’s Club members portrayed by Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacob, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff. You believe in every scene that they are scared and terrified of Pennywise. The dialogue is well written and the kids deliver in every scene. The chemistry between them is believable, and you get the different dynamics between the kids. Though the time the filmmakers have to develop those vital characters is insufficient, each one gets enough scenes to establish their traits, gimmicks, and features.

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise is just terrifying. I dare you to watch some interviews and making-offs on YouTube. It gives you an idea of what it must have been like on the set. His movements, his laugh and how he is interacting with the others – that’s how I imagined it when reading the book or listening to David Nathan’s interpretation of IT. Don’t get me wrong, Tim Curry did a fantastic job in the 1990 movie, but Skarsgård is for IT what Heath Ledger was for the Joker.

Besides the great acting, the seamless transitions between the scenes, and the well-placed use of CGI, there is another vital part of the movie. Another character if you will is the music. While writing this review, I am listening to the soundtrack, and I am scared. It creeps me out. Unfortunately, I watched the movie in IMAX, and it was a bit too loud. In IMAX cinemas you have a very intense bass, and the film uses bass to give you the feeling, that Pennywise is everywhere. It doesn’t let you take a breath. However, it could have worked better in a casual cinema, but in IMAX it was just too loud. It was probably just in the one I visited, if you have the chance, I recommend to not see in IMAX.

The Verdict

Watch it! Andy Muschietti and his team have done an incredible job bringing IT to new heights. At first, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked the movie, but once I accepted that the focus was slightly shifted towards the monster and not the kids, I loved the film. Though it has some lengths in the middle, the creepiness works well, and the actors deliver their characters flawlessly. I definitely will watch IT again.

Christoph Staffl

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