A Surprised Response to It (2017)

Article, Movie Review

Disclaimers first! I am not a horror movie watcher. In fact, I’m very sensitive to strong themes, one thing that this movie is full of. It would be good to keep that in mind while I’m making this review, because my overall reaction to the film is different from what a fan of horror might think.

Disclaimer number two! I’m not going to review this movie in terms of its accordance to the book, because I’ve never read it. This review is solely for the mechanics, plot, etc. of the movie.

Disclaimer number three! Spoilers ahead!

It... where should I even start with It?

The movie was… crazy, to say the least. It was two hours and fifteen minutes of  deep, very real gut-wrenching, sickening terror. It follows the story of a group of children (entitled “the Losers Club”) who live in the small town of Derry in 1989. Inhabiting Derry is the monstrous entity of Pennywise, a shapeshifting being who feeds on the fears of children, if only because their fears are simplistic and they are easy to lure. Upon devouring their fear, Pennywise takes the children and puts their bodies in his underground lair as a personal monument to his accomplishments. When each member of the Losers Club continually has encounters with Pennywise’s terrifying personas, they realize that they are the only ones who can put a stop to his reign of terror over Derry. When the clown pushes, they push back, and the result is the shocking, thrilling trip that is It.

Even with my first disclaimer in mind, there are a lot of things that I loved about this movie.

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One thing I really liked was how the movie really worked to make the audience care about the kids. Through not only the Losers Club’s fears, but their home lives, thoughts, personalities, and interactions, the movie manages to endear us to these misfit protagonists. I can appreciate Stephen King’s tales because of their character-based natures — it’s not just about making the audience jump a couple times, it’s about giving them faces they’ll remember, it’s about scaring them to their very core, it’s about giving them something to really root for and care about. And believe me, I won’t be forgetting about poor little Georgie anytime soon.

I guess the only con I can think of to the fact that the characters have the most importance to this story is that some characters feel more relevant than others. The problem with that is when the less-relevant characters have a scene, it makes the whole affair feel rather… disjointed.

For example, when we follow one of the bullies into the sewer and he encounters Pennywise in the form of zombies. While I was scared out of my mind during this scene (and, of course, impressed with the visual effects), I kinda just sat there wondering … what’s the point of this? I get that the movie was trying to illustrate that lots of kids were going missing, but with the way we were already witnessing all of the fears of the Losers Club as it was & with the way the zombie boy is pretty much never mentioned again, it made me feel as though the scene was more making sure we were still aware of the movie’s nature as a horror movie.

I feel the same way about the bully Henry. Henry has some of the most gore-heavy, terrifying scenes in the whole movie, and yet I feel as though most of his role in the movie could have been cut entirely and the whole thing would’ve felt much cleaner and less off-balance.

Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but … this is a two hour and fifteen-minute horror movie. There were a lot of places where I felt myself snapping my fingers and begging the movie to just get to where it was going instead of offering fluff.

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But of course, there is major props to be given to all of these actors, with honorable mentions specifically given to Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise) and Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie). To put it in colloquial terms, Skarsgård and Scott freaking slayed their roles, and heck, Scott is eight years old and one of the most talented actors I’ve seen in a long time! Both in the scenes where Georgie is first taken by Pennywise and later on when Pennywise is pretending to be Georgie to scare Bill, Scott blew my mind with what terror and emotion he could communicate to the audience. It was pure talent, and I definitely expect more great things from him in the future.

And then there’s Skarsgård. From the first moment you see his demonic countenance in that sewer, you know that this movie is going to be a lot. Skarsgård brings such a distinct personality to the iconic role, and my respect to him for that knows no bounds. There are some scenes where he’s not even really doing anything and I still felt shaken with terror just based on how confident he appears to be — like how when he was humorously pretending to almost take a bite out of Eddie’s hand to scare him, or when he was talking to Georgie and you could see the saliva on his lips because of how hungry he was. The little details like that really gave the movie a distinct charm and precision, and I love that!

But that’s enough about the actors and characters, honestly. I could go on and on about how much I loved so many aspects of this movie — how the colors felt properly saturated in a lot of places, how the fears were distinct, how the scary moments really felt intense or real, how the lighting was masterful or the atmospheric settings were perfect — but I feel like I wouldn’t be saying anything new. This movie definitely obeys the laws of what a horror movie is supposed to feel like, and it passes with flying colors in that aspect.

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Yet this movie is not without sins (trademark CinemaSins, haha), and the most prominent sin in my mind is the parts where it was unrealistic in very prominent ways. And yes, I know, this is a movie about a garbage sewer monster ghost thing who feasts on the fears of helpless children, but still. If this movie is going to set itself in the real world and play, for the most part, by real world rules, I feel like there are a lot of moments where they could have done better.

For example, I am really tired of the ’80s cliche where the bullies that go after the misfit characters are like … absolutely rotten, evil, and one-dimensional. I feel like this movie really relied on that trope, and that’s something that, to me, weakened the multifaceted aspect of all of the characters. I thought the scene where Henry was attempting to cut up Ben’s stomach was really needlessly cruel and violent. Like, okay, movie, we get it– Henry has issues. No need to make him all Bellatrix Lestrange to communicate to us that he has those issues — it just makes him seem like a fake villain instead of an actual, three dimensional person. I feel as though if they had balanced Henry’s interactions with his father with how much he bullied the Losers Club, it would have made his downfall much more effective.

Another rather petty detail I noted (that, of course, other reviewers have touched on) is how almost irritatingly unrealistic that rock fight is. Do these kids realize that it’s not impossible to be stoned to death, and that it was a pretty common way to kill someone in biblical times? These kids were getting hit square in the head by these huge rocks and both Henry and Richie (the two most relevant characters who got noticeably hit) walked away completely unscathed! This scene got under my skin in that aspect, even if it is home to the absolutely iconic “Blow your dad, you mullet-wearing asshole!” line and double-middle fingers from Richie.

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Other tiny details that bothered me but aren’t worth expanding on is: how some of the characters in the Losers Club seem exceedingly less relevant compared to the others, the general romance between Beverly, Bill, and Ben that I still don’t quite understand, why Pennywise didn’t just pounce on the kids after the Neibolt house when they were divided and uncertain,  and how sometimes the general composition of this movie was boring. But y’know, I’ll leave that to the second movie to hopefully fix these problems.

Okay, I promise I’m almost done railing on this actually-quite-good movie. The last thing I want to talk about that I had problems with was how anticlimactic Pennywise’s downfall was. I was honestly quite confused abut how Pennywise’s physical form and strength worked when he began to seem weakened by all of the Club’s denial of their fear in him. I feel like this movie spent a lot of time showing us how powerful, all-knowing, and unstoppable Pennywise is only for him to be easily pushed down a hole in the ground in the end. And I understand that Pennywise is going to come back 27 years later in the grand scheme of things, but still — looking at this movie as an individual entity, I feel like it was not sensible enough for my tastes.

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I would have liked more information as to why Pennywise didn’t just either kill the Club, make them forget about him, or simply go after other kids who are more ignorant of his identity (a deed he very well may’ve been doing offscreen, rendering it useless to us as an audience). I also would have liked to know more about the mechanics of Pennywise’s power, even if it does disrupt the mystery aspect of the story: is he kinda like Tinkerbell where when people don’t believe in him, he deteriorates? Can he only kill people if he has feasted on their fear first? Does he go back into hibernation at the end of the movie, or is he still awake and hungry, just weakened? I’m confused, and I don’t want to read a eleven hundred and fifty three page book in order to find out. I feel as though the movie could have done a better job communicating some more distinct pieces of information to the audience, but hey — that’s just me.

Like I said before, I don’t think that this is a bad movie at all. In fact, I think that this is a really well-written, well-shot, and well-colored movie. It’s just that, I look at the things that bother me and realize that I could have enjoyed the movie so much more if they had tweaked things to make it more accommodating as a single, linear story. It’s sort of a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) type problem: it sets itself up so much for whatever’s going to happen in the next movie that the movie that you are watching feels like it’s all buildup and no payoff.

This is the first horror movie I’ve seen in almost five years, and it was extremely impactful. I’ll still be thinking about the plot and mechanics of this story for weeks to come, and I’m pretty sure that that means that the movie has done it’s job right. I highly recommend this to anybody who can handle a good scare and lots of gore, especially if you’re a big horror movie fan. Overall, I give It (2017) 4/5 stars, and I’ll be sleeping with the lights on tonight, thank you very much.

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