I’ve watched the new It movie twice, and am so enamored that I’ve gotten the book and have read quite a ways into it. I’m also re-reading Frankenstein and a bunch of short stories because of my responsibilities as a college instructor, and I’m enjoying being able to read without making notes and marginalia.
Naturally, I’ll be writing a comparison up as soon as I’m finished, and will be taking notes and marginalia to help with this.
This film is, I think, the best treatment that Stephen King’s horror has ever gotten on the silver screen. A bad mood tainted my first viewing, in which the sound track and certain CG moments annoyed me. Under normal circumstances, this’ll kill a movie for me. The aesthetics of the film also bothered me – camera tricks designed to make horror-movie viewers feel ungrounded stood out badly to me, the color scheme felt as if it were screaming messages in my face, and I grumped after every jump scare.
And left the theater thinking and revisiting scenes, which nagged at me until I’d gone out and bought the novel. As I read, I wondered if I had not made a critical mistake, and watched the film against its intended grain. I went again. Stephen King is close to my heart. I wanted to like It, and had been prepared to hate it from its earliest conception.
I had seen an early leak of a script that was absolutely abysmal.
I had a supposed edit of the script that didn’t seem much better.
The reveal of Pennywise’s costume didn’t impress me.
The first trailer made me worry about the film’s overall quality.
And despite having all of this and a bad mood on my shoulders, the movie had me in its grips. I was charmed by the cast, and my internal bitching was drowned out by the sort of post-film mental awe that makes watching films a worthwhile activity.
I saw It a second time and have been left entirely delighted. Horror tropes used throughout the film are not there to scare me, the viewer; they’re there to establish pathos for the Loser Club.
Bill Skarsgård nails the role. He is not the Pennywise we grew up, nor is he trying to be. He made the part his own. Tim Curry played a wonderful murder-clown. Bill Skarsgård played an eldritch horror disguised as a clown. Neither one detracts from the other’s performance in any way; they are doing different jobs for different treatments of a story.
In many ways, I see It as a modern mirror of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. We follow young protagonists into a dark forest through a world wherein we understand they can die, and they’re surrounded by horrors that the adult world only cares about in a cursory way.
This is a coming-of-age story first and a horror film second, and because of that, it has significantly more depth than I expected. If you’ve got young teenagers, let them go see this. The R rating is elemental to the material, but I suspect very strongly that they will understand this film in a way that adults cannot.
And this speaks volumes about how fantastically the makers of It have mastered the material. I don’t think I can write more on this topic while keeping my “no spoilers” promise, so I’ll cut myself short, here.
I have criticisms, but they are surface-level, laden with spoilers, and not worth skipping the film over. The release of what is certain to become a national treasure is not the time for me to yuck into the yum. Go catch this on the big screen, and let me know what you think in the comments.