Movie Review : It (2017)
The movie adaptation of Stephen King's 1,000 pages novel It was one of the most anticipated movies of 2018. And It (sic) was a resounding success, grossing over 700 million dollars worldwide and breaking just about every horror movie-related record along. So, I knew it was probably good. I didn't look convincing from the trailers, but a movie doesn't gather such consensus if it isn't at least competent. This review won't tell you if It is good or not. I'm going to tell you why it's good and perhaps how it could've been even better.
If you're not familiar with the story of It - I had the pleasure of reading King's novel a decade ago or so - it's the story of a group of kids called the Losers Club, who face several source of fear and stress on a daily basis. They're being bullied at school, Beverly (Sophia Lillis) is being sexually abused by her father, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher)'s little brother disappeared during a thunderstorm, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer)'s living an unhealthy symbiotic relationship with his mother, etc. At some point, their lives become even more miserable and they become tormented by terrifying visions of an evil clown. And they will need to sort it out if they want to 1) not die and 2) sleep again at night.
So, It is genuinely terrifying in spots. The evil clown chasing the Losers Club around Derry, Maine is not simply an evil clown, he's the symbolic manifestation of the town's "corruption". What does that mean, exactly? Well, nobody's nice in Derry. Everyone is out for themselves and too often taking out their frustrations on the dorky kids of the Losers Club, who are easy victims. When It starts manifesting itself (sic), the kids become trapped in this horrible psychological space between their daily torments and these waking nightmares imposed by the clown. The only way out of this vicious circle of terror for them, is through.
The best example I can give you is Beverly's ordeal. She's being sexually abused by her father, so she cuts her hair and washes it down the sink drain in order to make herself less desirable to him and gain control over her blooming sexuality. It uses that source of terror in her life to subject her to a vision of spider-like hair attacking her and menstrual/sacrificial blood shooting up the sink drain. It's terrifying on a primordial level, because you (as an audience) understands where it comes from. Beverly's own psyche is used against her and I don't know what is scarier than that. Narratively speaking, she's the most complex and engrossing character in It.
It is good. It's borderline great, but it's trying way too fucking hard. Part of it is not director Andy Muschietti's fault. Stephen King has a convoluted and hystrionic vision of childhood where schools are filled with predators, victims and little nuance in between. Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) is ridiculous and over-the-top. An authoritarian cop's son would never ever be this unruly, not even in the wildest fiction. But Henry was just as ridiculous in the novel. The only thing I can accuse Muschietti of, is making that ridiculous clown, who is so downright evil that he wouldn't even scare a twelve year old.
I highly recommend watching It if you're into horror movies. It's not just a good, well-told story, it's genuinely gripping horror, which is something you can't say a lot in 2018. There are many stand out moments: the haunted house scene (way scarier than anything from The Conjuring series), the slide projector scene, the first Beverly vision, the first Ben vision, etc. It's way wilder than what I thought it would be. It is probably coming to a streaming service near you soon, it's not perfect, it's not transcendent, but it's a balls-to-the-wall wicked good time. Watch it.