Films / Horror / Reviews

Child actors shine bright in otherwise underwhelming IT

I viewed, for the first time, the 1990 IT a couple of days before director Andy Muschietti‘s modern take on Pennywise’s fear feast throughout the small town of Derry. And, let me tell you, as end credits ran I felt — kinda similar? Yeah, my feelings were kinda similar.

There’s no denying the impact IT has had and continues to have during September. According to Box Office Mojo, the numbers and broken records are hair-raising:

  • $123.1 million opening
  • largest September opening
  • largest Fall opening
  • largest opening for an R-rated horror film
  • largest opening weekend for a horror film of any MPAA rating

Numbers aside, however, there’s a film to critique. This tale is almost as old as time, but for those who need a catch-up: Pennywise the Clown has terrorized the fictional town of Derry, killing children and making them “float.” This clown comes back every 27 years or so to haunt children that get away from It’s grasp. Our “Losers Club” — a title given to the group of kids IT follows — is comprised of Bill Denbrough (Bill Denbrough), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff). These kids fight tooth and nail to escape Pennywise, but the question is whether they can fight off the feeling which our demented clown feasts upon: fear.

kids

Photo: Warner Bros.

Right off the bat, this take on Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is clearly more grotesque than actor Tim Curry’s take on our classic clown. I mean, when lil’ Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) gets his arm torn off and blood is seen running down the rainy streets — GOODNESS. It took me off-guard, but Muschietti made it clear: this is going to be IT (1990) multiplied by 100.

And it — sort-of worked. I appreciated the no-filter conversations between our Losers Club. When you’re seeing actor Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame spit out F-bombs and actor Jack Dylan Grazer poking fun at sleeping with someone else’s sister, it plays to childhood friendships. Kids are going to be kids, after all, and IT does well to present them in what seemed to almost feel like a coming-of-age tale. This is actually where the film thrives and what I loved most. The dynamic between each child actor carried the film in most scenes and their emotion felt genuine. Although, some of the jokes fell flat and only took you out of moments rather than pulled audiences in.


The weird love triangle between Bill, Ben and Marsh was perfectly executed. I felt the sadness when actor Jeremy Ray Taylor — who plays Ben — watched as Marsh and Bill laughed and exchanged conversation as they cleaned Marsh’s blood-infested bathroom.

marsh bill

Photo: WB

Speaking of blood-infested bathrooms, the horror set pieces — which early on serve to show each child’s first encounter with Pennywise — worked a fair amount. I found this rendition of IT gave us a couple good jump scares and spooked us a bit with clever sequences, like bully Patrick Hockstetter’s (Owen Teague) moment in the sewer. These moments were fun, but then there’s a handful of other Pennywise encounters that left me disappointed and, quite frankly, distracted.

When Tim Curry gave us his Pennywise, I was impressed by the ability to show personality through the character. There was a mental game being played, but actor Bill Skarsgård was limited to more drooling and CGI that pulled me out of scenes. There were barely lines given to Skarsgård, either. His Pennywise was still creepy in moments, but overall a detractor from what would’ve worked much better.

pennywise

Photo: WB

There was a generic feel to some of the scare sequences, as well. Sound cues gave away the moments of surprise and loud sound effects whenever Pennywise would lunge at the kids. This made it more comical than frightful. Listen, I know this is in and of itself supposed to be “fun,” but when the film seriously attempted to spook its audience, the success rate was low.

What made the film worth a sit-through, however, was the strong first half (sound similar to the original?). I couldn’t help but smile and laugh at how the Loser Club eventually formed a tighter bond over time and we learned about each child’s life at home. Think Stranger Things unfiltered — the vibes are fun, carefree and do a wonderful job at encapsulating the summer of 1989. I wish the film had shone a brighter light on Mike Hanlon, as his character serves a big role in the original IT, but that might be left for the sequel.

The biggest drawback with IT was how it concluded. I was left underwhelmed and felt like the CGI-fest turned the film around for the worst. Everything felt unnatural and what made the film likable seemingly disappeared in exchange for cheap thrills and an ear-piercing score. It left me leaving the theater a bit sour.

The first-half success of IT kept this film afloat (see what I did there?). A few very well-done sequences make this watchable, but I’m left feeling like there could have been more squeezed out of Muschietti’s take on what many call a horror classic (I wouldn’t, but that’s an article for another day). So go in with expectations low, horror fans.


I attended a press screening for ‘IT’ thanks to the wonderful Allied Integrated Marketing and Warner Bros. This review is a tad late due to Hurricane Irma, and I continue to pray for those who were affected by this terrible storm. ❤

‘IT’ is rated R, runs 2 hours and 15 minutes and released on Sept. 8, 2017.

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