Here at The Game of Nerds, we all float — or at least we did… to the nearest theatre showing the newest adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. Here’s what we thought, spoiler-free!
Biggest opening weekend in September. Biggest opening weekend in Autumn. Biggest opening weekend for a horror movie. Biggest opening weekend for a Stephen King adaptation. Second-biggest opening weekend for an R-rated film. These are just some of the all-time records broken by the 2017 remake of IT, and that’s just so far. Directed by Andy Muschietti (of Mama fame), this adaptation of the classic beloved King novel is being called the most accurate and best film of his yet.
Though this version only focuses on the main characters as kids (as you recall, the book and miniseries both focus on the fam as kids AND adults), a Part II is on the way sometime in the near future to round off the story. However, that’s not to say this film is lacking! By focusing and zeroing in one complete resolved half of the story, the filmmakers were able to get in all the humour, scares and touching moments without having to ‘trim any fat’ to make room for the adults. Since Part II will also heavily feature newly-shot flashbacks with the Part I kids, expect a lot of nostalgia as well!
Wait, humour? Yes, humour; this film is funny. Think of the good-natured coming-of-age ‘80s adventure stories like The Goonies or Stand By Me and infuse it with a killer clown-like entity. For every scream there’s two laughs, and that certainly adds to the film rather than take away from it. As with works it inspired like Stranger Things, the cast’s chemistry is what makes this film click and makes you feel like you are a part of their friend group. Stephen King is the master of that nostalgic ‘kids-on-bicycles’ feel, and this movie nailed it. And how often can you walk out of a scary movie with a million memorable movie quotes?
Now, if you’re looking for a perfect adaptation, this isn’t it. Several details of the book are changed for modernization or story purposes, and some things seem to be changed simply for the sake of switching things up for the fans familiar with the story. However, these changes are just as unsettling; just because there’s no ‘haunted photo album’ scene doesn’t mean that the ‘haunted slide projector’ scene is any less terrifying. This movie also revels in the grotesque, and doesn’t shy away from gruesome attacks on children. You want teeth? We’ve got a million. Just don’t go in expecting to see the content of the pages jump to the screen perfectly, and don’t expect a remake of the 1990 TV adaptation.
“But what about Pennywise?” That’s the question everyone wants to know: did Bill Skarsgård live up to the bar set by Tim Curry in the miniseries, or the horrifying figure in the book. The short (and relieving) answer is… he didn’t have to! Bill’s performance is so entirely different and unique from the classic that he’s immediately a figure of his own. (To use a tired comparison, think Heath Ledger’s Joker; many have done the character, but his iteration was so different that comparing it to others is apples to oranges.) Pennywise is funny, makes goofy faces, does stupid dances with his stupid lanky body — and he’s terrifying, menacing, and psychotic. He isn’t any better or worse than any other adaptation; he’s a completely unique (and thoroughly scary) take on the now-worn ‘killer clown’ horror trope.
If there’s one gripe I have about this film, it’s that the CG could use a little work — a complaint I’ve had with Muschietti’s work before. Perhaps shying away from computer effects for practical ones more often might have rectified this problem? While the first instance of Pennywise unhinging his jaw to reveal rows upon rows of teeth is almost a little goofy, at any rate I feel the CG can easily be overlooked for much of the film. It’s not great, but it’s not any worse than any other modern horror film that decided to go the digital route. #BRINGBACKPRACTICALEFFECTS2017. At the very least, this movie relied on real horror — and not just lazy jump-scares — to startle the audience, which is always a plus in my book.
It’s not very often that a horror film becomes a film event or pop culture phenomena anymore, and whenever one does (Scream, Saw, to a lesser extent Paranormal Activity) it’s because that film has something unique to offer and appeals to a wider audience for one reason or another. This movie is no exception. I don’t often recommend horror films to non-horror fans that would be scared out of their wits, but I definitely think this film is one everyone should see. Scariness aside (and make it double, if you’re already scared of clowns), this movie is heartfelt and sweet, cute, funny and tense. Love it or detest it, you have to admit you’ve never seen a horror movie pull off King’s unique tricky blend of humour, heart and horror better.
I give this movie a 9.5/10, and, like this one, I will be stalking the casting and production details of Part II like a sewer-dwelling clown.
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