OK. So I am a super jumpy guy. My fright threshold is very low and as a result, horror films are amongst my least favourite things to experience. (I am slowly warming to rollercoasters…)
It was with considerable dread and trepidation that I took myself along to see the second Stephen King adaptation in a month as the long awaited IT hit screens.
I never finished watching the Netflix show Stranger Things. Which is a bummer because IT feels like it caters to those fans who loved that show.
As a film programmer associate of mine commented – there is a big Stranger Things/Goonies vibe to proceedings. (Spot on CS!)
Set in late 1980s Maine and in the town of Derry, children are disappearing. There is a 7pm curfew (which we never see enforced, as the action takes place primarily during the day.)
Sewer dwelling Pennywise the dancing clown is responsible for the shrinking population, and thrives on the fear that inhabits children. It’s not just late 1980s Derry though that has experienced tragedy, with “new kid” Ben uncovering a litany of previous incidents that have occurred in the town including explosions and fires that claimed many lives.
I adored Stephen King as a teenager, reading and rereading all his classic titles throughout my teens, and watching IT reminded me of how powerfully he speaks to the adolescent phase we all go through. (I’m still in mine to some extent.)
Scenarios like the purchase of a first box of tampons, the first crush on somebody your own age, the loosening bond with parents, the growing bonds of friendship through shared adversity, bullies, perr pressure and dozens more ideas op up repeatedly in both King’s works and by extension the film.
These are all classic themes, and certainly the film is reminiscent of another King classic Stand By Me, but with much scarier scenes.
The casting is excellent with many of the characters resembling Pennywise in one way or another, leading you to always wonder if some kind of human force is responsible for the terror in the town. Supernatural powers however are at work and these are realised with great vision by Argentinian director Andy Muschietti, whose previous work Mama was acclaimed for its visual aesthetic.
I was definitely expecting IT to deliver more frights and I don’t recall exclaiming once, which I generally do in scary movies. A lot of the jumps felt telegraphed, so there were not too may unexpected shocks. Which seems kind of at odds with the premise of seeing a film like this.
At different points during the film other audience members moved around the cinema and that made me really uneasy, so the film did a good job of being unsettling. Was it as terrifying as I was expecting? Definitely not, and I can’t yet tell if that is a relief or a let-down.
Stylish, moody, well acted and shot beautifully aided by sensational production and sound design, this is a work of significant quality. Does it do justice to my esteem for the book? Almost.
One other factor that I did not like was as the film ended, the title “IT Chapter 1” came up on the screen. Enough with the universe building please! Just deliver a solid film that stand on it’s own merit.
Given the novel is set in the late 50s and mid 80s, one can only imagine that the second chapter will take place with the kids as adults in a contemporary setting, 27 years on from the events on this first film.
There is certainly enough in the film to satisfy most bloodthirsty audiences, and a good dose of thrills and action, but for those who cherished the book as a part of their own teenage years, it may not quite live up to expectations.
IT is “Deeply Unsettling” 3 Stars.