Author Topic: It  (Read 123 times)

Junior

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It
« on: September 11, 2017, 01:02:24 PM »
It

Stephen King is why I love horror. I was a big old wuss for the first 12 or 13 years of my life, afraid of stuff like Jumanji and The Shaggy Dog (IT'S JUST A WEREWOLF, GUYS!) until I picked up a Stephen King short story collection in my 8th grade English class and read "The Boogeyman," a story about a monster hiding in a closet and then in plain sight. And then I was hooked. I read literally every Stephen King story I could get my hands on, with It following closely on the heels of The Shining and Cujo. While I was able to follow those two books up with a viewing of the film based on them which began my obsession with horror films, It lived in my mind for a good while. I eventually caught up with the mediocre 90's TV adaptation of the gigantic book, but other than Tim Curry, there's really nothing to recommend that. This new cinematic version, then, had a chance to bring something great to the table. It could have recaptured that first burst of love for a new genre. It could have been a new favorite. It isn't, but it's still pretty darn good.

The story of It feels like something everybody knows, due in part to stuff like Stranger Things having been heavily influenced by its mix of coming-of-age anxieties and full-on horror. This is still the best version, as the menacing monster is able to take the form of whatever scares its victims plus King's deft mixing of real-world horror with the supernatural stuff. As the 7 kids that make up the Loser's Club spend their summer vacation looking for dead kids and trying to survive bullies, they discover that there's something supremely evil in the town of Derry and they're the only ones who can stop it. It's all become standard horror stuff by now as movies like Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and the aforementioned Stranger Things taking heavy cues from this book. None have quite nailed the sense that the kids are distinct entities with complicated relationships to each other and their families, nor have they matched King's impressive world-building which really sells the idea that the whole town is rotten thanks to the corrupting force that is It. This movie almost reaches the book's level, but misses in key ways that keep this from being the masterpiece it could have been.

Let's start with the good things first. The kids are all great actors and when they're given room to have some fun or do things that aren't scream in terror, they're fantastic to watch. When I re-read the book, these kids will be the faces I see in my head. Bev, the group's only girl, is probably the best of them thanks to Sophia Lillis's spectacular performance. She also gets the most characterization and there are layers to her that are revealed through her interactions with her new friends and pervy father as the film goes on. While most of the kids get a good scare in before they all reveal to each other that they're having similar experiences, Bev's is the most interesting visually and thematically. Her relationship with her father and her new friends could have been really uncomfortable and offputting in what is, after all, a fun horror film, but it's done just right here. Jack Dylan Grazer's Eddie hypochondriac Eddie and Jeremy Ray Taylor's romantic history buff are also highlights and, unsurprisingly, have the other great scares in the early goings.

Bill Skarsgård has the unenviable position of trying to play a character that already has one iconic cinematic version in Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise, the most common form It takes. Skarsgård nails it, though, always dancing along the line between funny and creepy. If you're worried you saw all the scares in the superb trailer for the film, fear not. There's almost always a level of escalation that wasn't shown plus plenty of other scary moments. Pennywise is a talkative baddie, and Skarsgård always manages to put an emphasis on a weird word or take a pause to up the creep factor just a bit. He goes guttural often and his loose body implies that when It looks in a mirror it doesn't see a human figure. Even though the film doesn't go quite as far as the book does into the entity's cosmic multidimensionality, Skarsgård's hints at it to add a truly scary component to the character. Director Andy Muschietti also plays some clever tricks with special effects and filming techniques to create a sense that everything is happening in a slightly shifted version of reality that has been warped by It's malevolence.

One of the biggest changes from the book is structural. While the book and the 90's TV version intercut between the kids' story and their return to Derry 27 years later, this one sticks entirely to the kids and it works really well. The conclusion is meaningful because it not only wraps up the fight between the Losers' Club and It but also serves as a conclusion to the thematic throughlines for the kids as they grow up, perhaps too early. The movie also excises the one thing everybody talks about from the book and replaces it with a gentle-but-tainted kiss. This is a definite positive. There's a lot left to be explored in the inevitable sequel (did you see how much money this thing made over the weekend? Nuts!) and the film does a pretty great job of planting those seeds without feeling like it's missing anything for not cultivating them more here. I am confident that we'll see some pretty CINECAST!ed up shit when the adults take over, and not just from a creepy clown, either.

There are, however, quite a few things that keep this from being a new horror masterpiece. Even though it's 2h 15m long, there's still not quite enough characterization for my liking. Though Bev feels like a full character, and many of the other members of the Losers' Club are fun to watch, there are 7 of them and a few just feel like warmed up leftovers from their novel versions. Wyatt Oleff's Stanley Uris is, um, Jewish and slightly more afraid than the others. Chosen Jacobs' Mike Hanlon is the black kid and joins up with the others too late to get much development. That's kind of true in the book, too, but he still spends a good amount of time with the other Losers to at least feel like part of the team. Here it feels like he's there to give them a weapon and serve as a target for a bully. There's no way that the people behind this film could have known about what would happen in Charlottesville earlier this summer, but the film unfortunately suffers from not investigating the racism it touches on a little more thoroughly. If that had gotten as much attention as Bev's sexual maturity and accompanying abuse, it might have been really powerful now. The other kid who gets the short end of the stick is Finn Wolfhard's Richie Tozier, who is just a joke machine here. His personal fear is just clowns, so he doesn't get a full scare scene and therefore he feels less personally connected. His jokes are funny, though, and I guess that's something.

The movie also misses a lot of opportunities from the book to make a greater impact on the audience. The menace that pervades the town is just kind of there, mostly. We get a few mundane creeps, usually parents of the kids, and the bullies are too underdeveloped to be a real menace. I get it, there's just too much to fit in even a pretty long horror film, and I was already complaining about the kids being a little two-dimensional for my taste, so spending more time on the rest of the town would be wasted when compared to those other missing elements. But they are missing nonetheless. Perhaps the biggest miss is the interlude chapters from the book which feature either a mundane evil or an example of It terrorizing and then consuming yet another child. Outside of the first half-hour or so, the movie features very few deaths on screen and therefore It's potency as a baddie is diminished. Here's a shapeshifting manifestation of fear who eats its victims after scaring them enough to give them the proper flavor and we get almost none of that on screen. The opening scene is so freaking scary because the kid dies at the end. The stakes are there. But the next two kids who go missing are seen only on posters around town and then one of the bullies gets killed offscreen. And that's about it. In the book kids are dying left and right, and King spends just enough time giving them some characterization before killing them off that you feel it, and then the peril that the heroes are facing becomes all the more real and dangerous. Much of that is lost in this adaptation and it's probably the greatest sin in terms of scariness.

My last complaint is that the ending, while much better than most horror films that lose steam as the monster becomes more familiar, loses a bit from the novel in the mechanics of how the Losers fight the monster. Where the book favors the use of imagination to attack the embodiment of that imagination, here the attacks are mostly physical. This is the only time I felt that the movie was holding back in a way that hurt it. To really do the ending justice, there'd have to be some pretty crazy shit in it, and I loved the glimpses we got of it, so I feel like it is a missed opportunity. It again makes the movie feel a little less special. These criticisms don't discount the immense enjoyment I got from my time with these old friends, but I'm still waiting for the amazing version. Maybe 27 years from now we'll get something spectacular. Very good'll do for now.

B+

I wanted to add in that I really liked the leper and the painting lady and holy crap was that projector scene terrifying and so was the haunted house (the fridge!) and the headless kid in the library basement. Loved the peek down into It's mouth at the end, and the spider legs coming out for a brief second. I wonder if the sequel will go all out with that stuff that I missed here. Loved the hint of the adult stuff from Bev in the circle at the end, though.
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Corndog

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Re: It
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2017, 02:18:08 PM »
So I really liked the experience, but found the supernatural elements out of sync with the rest of the story. Not having read the source material, I felt like I didn't know how to react. I get that It is representative of all fear, but I can't tell what happened and what didn't. And if everything shown actually happened, then I'm not sure how to reckon with it based on how the film treated things.

For instance, is It a figment, representative of human fear, or is Pennywise a real thing that is snatching kids and killing them?
Did Bev really kill her father? At the end she says she is moving, likely because he's dead, but did really nothing come of that? She killed him, deserved or not. Strange that seems to be swept under the table.

It was things like these that confused me. Enlighten me!
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Junior

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Re: It
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2017, 03:08:19 PM »
It isn't representative of fear, it is able to sense what the kids fear and use it to scare them before it eats them so that they taste better. There's another monster in the last book of the Dark Tower series that is of the same "family" and feeds on laughter instead of fear. All the supernatural stuff is real, very dangerous and deadly.

And yeah, Bev killed her father. Either they ignored the consequences (other than moving away, part of the dissolution of the group in the immediate aftermath) or the town's corruption keeps her from facing the consequences. That's probably reading too much into it.
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Re: It
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2017, 03:19:38 PM »
Yea, they didn't cover that stuff in the movie, but the added context helps. Thanks.
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Junior

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Re: It
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2017, 03:22:18 PM »
Happy to help on all things King.
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karlwinslow

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Re: It
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2017, 10:50:00 AM »
or the town's corruption keeps her from facing the consequences. That's probably reading too much into it.

I don't think that's reading too much into it. The fellas touched on it in their review, but the corruption of town by IT is a huge part of the book.

Adults turn a blind eye to what's really going on - we see that on the bridge when the car drives by as Ben is being carved up, the missing person papers just being piled on top of each other, etc. IT infects the town and the minds of the adults -- in the book Bev's dad is like possessed by IT or something, she sees it in his eyes.

There are few consequences to violence throughout the book, and that includes all the flashback interludes to the massive violent outbursts throughout the town's history.

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Re: It
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2017, 10:57:02 AM »
I think you're right. I've been listening to the audiobook and in the 3rd chapter there's a big long police interrogation which just dismisses the clown the criminal says he saw. I do wish there was a little more on that end, but it works.
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karlwinslow

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Re: It
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2017, 11:02:46 AM »
I will forever be saddened that we won't see Cary Fukanaga's version

DarkeningHumour

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Re: It
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2017, 12:05:22 PM »
It

Nice book you wrote there...  ;D

I appreciate all the comparisons to the book because I know nothing about it. They helped me figure out some of the mechanics and gave me an idea of the choices that were made.

I think separating the two movies this way was the best way to go about it if that was the format they were going for. I also think that book might work well as a longer miniseries.

What is the thing in the book everyone talks about? I am assuming it is sexual in nature?

On that topic, was I the only one a bit creeped out by the scenes of Bev in underwear? I felt the movie was sexualising a thirteen year old, which was going a bit too far into the boys' POV.

I agree that Bev's Pennywise attack is by far the most interesting. I would have liked to see more characterization for the other characters, but even then, their fears are nowhere near as related to their arcs or such as her stuff.

I didn't see anything of the corruption of the town in the movie beyong a general sense of adults sucking. I also thought Bev's father hadn't died but was just hurt.

Also agree that more deaths, more feeling of danger would have worked. And that whole using imagination to fight PW thing sounds so much better too, it's weird they wouldn't include that.
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Junior

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Re: It
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2017, 05:56:14 PM »
It's not nearly as long as the book it's based on!

I'm glad my book knowledge could help. It feels like a book everybody has read, but that's probably just because I read it several times (and assigned it in class once, at least sections of it). I'm glad all my book talk wasn't in vain.

Both filmed versions of the story so far will have been split similarly by the time all is said and done. I do wonder what more time and a more intertwined version would actually look like. I hate the cliche, but a Netflix or HBO (or whatever) mini-season would really do the trick, I think. Too bad we'll have to wait for at least a decade before that happens, probably.

Yeah, the thing in the book is a, um, serial copulation scene with almost all the boys and Bev after they defeat It the first time. It helps them find the way out or something. It's really unnecessary, though I can almost see what he was going for with the maturation theme. It just feels kinda pretty very gross. The kiss, while obviously tamer, accomplishes much of the same things without the squick factor.

I didn't really have a problem with Bev in her underwear. They talked about this in relation to a letter on one of the recent episodes of The Last Picture Show (about Blade Runner, I think) and I agree with them that pretty much everything to do with Bev outside the damsel in distress stuff at the end was actually a really well done version of that kind of character. It's important to note that she's not afraid of her sexuality but rather the danger she feels from her dad as a result of that sexuality. I think that lets the underwear scene and the kiss and stuff be benign and the dad stuff be suitably gross but doesn't account for the dumb damsel in distress (that was absent from the book).

A friend of mine wrote this great article about how the monster (and house) stand in for the corruption in Derry. While I agree with all of that, I still feel a lack, though I think it's more about the lack of danger that I talked about later.

I'm pretty sure Bev's father dies. She's moving in with her aunt elsewhere at the end and I don't think a living version of her father would let her do that. It is a bit ambiguous, though.

There's a distinct possibility that they'll do the imagination stuff in the sequel. We'll have to wait and see.
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