Movie Review: It

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A group of kids band together when a murderous clown menaces their town.

starsthreepointfive

Andy Muschietti, 2017

One rainy day in the small town of Derry, Maine, little Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) encounters otherworldly killer clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) in the sewers. A year later, his older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) becomes obsessed with discovering what happened to his brother. Tortured by an excessively cruel local bully and with the memory of Georgie haunting his home, Bill only has his friends to help him: fast-talking Richie (Finn Wolfhard), hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), and cautious Stanley (Wyatt Oleff). As Bill gets closer to discovering the truth about Georgie, he and his friends also get closer to the monster haunting the town. It terrorises them along with the other children in town, some of whom they befriend in their quest to stop the fear. Bill develops a crush on classmate Beverly (Sophia Lillis), a brave girl with her own secrets.

it-teaser-poster

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, It has already had one notorious iteration as a TV miniseries. Thanks to some brilliant work from Tim Curry, the miniseries cemented the place of Pennywise in children’s minds everywhere as a terrifying figure. The rest of the series was not quite as successful. Fortunately, the new film does much better on the wider mythology and character development without sacrificing Pennywise’s terrifying nature. Bill Skarsgard is all creeping menace as Pennywise, a drooling, unreal nightmare figure who haunts the children of Derry day and night. From the carefully crafted opening scene with the death of Georgie, the film maintains tension and interest across its over-2-hour-long runtime. There are other strong performances among the young cast – Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things acquits himself well in the showy role of Richie, Sophia Lillis is magnetic as Beverly, and Jack Dylan Grazer grows into Eddie well – although there are so many kids that it becomes hard to keep track, and some are not as well-served by the story as others. Jaeden Lieberher is hampered by a stutter, but has his moments. The film gives us plenty of insights into their lives and their relationships, with positive and negative effects.

Unfortunately, the script oversimplifies the characters in the early scenes, which detracts a little from the film’s efforts to make us care about them. The film is at its best in the scary moments, with terrific production design and cinematography from Chung-hoon Chung lifting the film. The aesthetic here is so unified, with bright sunny days in the quarry contrasting the dripping, skin-crawling sewers and haunted house. The filmmakers set up a terrific sense of place and give us a really good idea of just how scary Pennywise can be. There’s a reliance on nostalgia for the 80s that is a little heavy-handed here – much like It was Stephen King looking back on his boyhood in the 50s, this is the filmmakers’ nostalgia for their own childhood showing through. The spectre of sexism looms over this film, though, with its treatment of Beverly. When she’s good she’s great, brave and alluring, but the film’s sexualisation of the young teen is borderline pedophilic. All of her storylines revolve around her gender and sexuality, and it’s infuriating, particularly when it introduces a pre-teen love triangle. The beautifully realised, tense, violent horror scenes and the film’s cathartic effect are lessened by its treatment of her. It’s still a film worth watching

It (2017) on IMDb

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