The It movie delivers on all of it’s lofty promises with a terrorizing new take on a classic Stephen King Legend of Pennywise the clown. Andy Muschietti serves up a nostalgic thriller with a lot of heart. The core lead by a stellar Losers’ Club.
A note: This mini-review is Spoiler Free*! The podcast we just released however, will not be. if you haven’t seen the movie, you can read this review. But do go see the film before you listen to our Bonus Episode. *references scenes in the trailers
As a Horror fan, hype is not really something we have to deal with as a community all too much. We see hype, we can recognize it. Wonder Woman had Hype. Deadpool had hype. Batman vs. Superman may have had hype.. before preview audiences made their way to the internet. But it’s not often that a Horror release gets to experience the anticipation of a budding Blockbuster. One that’s just waiting and ready to burst through the theatre doors.
I believe part of the reason – is that Horror is a genre with so many facets, nooks, and crannies. When discussing Horror among the community, one can simply argue away a dislike without much of a debate ‘Oh, I’m not into found footage‘, ‘Creature Features aren’t really my bag‘. Horror itself is a niche, and it’s audience gets to pick and choose the branches of that weird tree where they like to hang out most. It’s hard to appease a tree full of weirdos, it really is. And somehow, the It movie may have done it.
So, how did It reach Looming Blockbuster status? Well it’s hard to pinpoint, exactly. First off, I think this film landed at an extremely opportune time. Horror Movies have been dominating the Box office in 2017. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is reigning as the most profitable movie of 2017. Annabelle: Creation‘s impressive run at the box office pushed The Conjuring series into the elite $1 Billion franchise club. Audiences seem to be receptive to horror this year. And, it’s no surprised we latched onto Pennywise the Clown after 2016’s breakout 80’s thriller Stranger Things. It was the sleeper hit of the year, captivating viewers across genres and typical viewing audiences, to become one of Netflix’s Top 3 most watched series. Fans seem primed and ready for a retro tale of kids in paranormal peril.
But with all the things working for It‘s release – the film also faced some pretty high barriers. Not only are they trying to re-imagine an already successful property, but two. Stephen King is the single most iconic author in Horror. His works have been adapted countless times; from Carrie (1976), Christine (1982), The Shining (1980).. I could literally rhyme off adaptations for another 3 paragraphs if I found myself needing to hit a word count. And with such an extensive and beloved body of work, comes a passionate fan base. Stephen King’s readers can be a tough crowd to please when it comes to interpreting his work. The recently adapted Dark Tower Series has been pretty much panned by audiences and critics, despite being one of the highly anticipated releases of the summer. On top of impressing Stephen King‘s audience of avid readers, this film had the lofty task of impressing fans of the Original 1990 TV mini-series. (spoiler: I’m one of them) Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise was the nightmare fuel that likely steered the majority of macabre Millenials towards the Horror genre.
This is where the film’s marketing really intervened. To battle the potential skeptics and nay-sayers, It movie played extremely coy with their marketing campaign. They hid Pennywise from us as long as they possibly could. They teased us with yellow slickers and red balloons, giving us a promise of something scary, but showing no cards. Horror fans were desperate for behind-the-scenes glimpses, stills, and sneak-peaks, but we had to sit tight. When the Trailer was finally released in the Spring, it received 197 million views globally within 24 hours. The film set and holds a new record for the most watches in a single day. It wasn’t until mid-August that the more traditional and revealing marketing was unleashed; The It Float VR Experience, the Neibolt House haunted house installation in L.A.
By the time opening weekend had rolled around, I don’t think fans could have scrambled faster to their seats. Even myself, someone who tries very very hard to not get my hopes up with Blockbuster releases (lest we have another The Mummy meltdown), found myself front-row-center at Thursday night’s preview screening (which also broke records, btw).
So, did IT movie live up to the hype? I’m sure you read my title. If you didn’t, scroll up. I’ll wait.
Now, know that we normally don’t write our reviews of big Blockbusters here at Nightmare on Film Street. We typically record them. Our podcast hosts many a live discussion of films immediately upon seeing them, in a segment we call Drive Home From The Drive-In. And, we’ve done the same for It movie. We’ve compiled all of our jumbled thoughts for you, and are editing them as we speak. Or.. as I type from the past. I’m going to be saving a lot of my thoughts for that bonus episode of Nightmare on Film Street. It’ll hit the internet either late tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. Oh, stop booing. I’m going to talk about the movie right now..
(Update: The It Episode is up now! Follow this link to Spoilers)
Pennywise the Dancing Clown, portrayed in this film by Bill Skarsgård, is an effective villain. Audiences are familiar with his rules; the parameters of his mythology. Because of such a rich back catalog and viewers’ familiarity of the character, Andy Muschietti’s vision got to be free to twistedly dance across the screen. Terrify us from scene to scene, never repeating a gimmick. What we were served in this film was an erratic, mischievous character. One that can play as both deadly and whimsical, turning on a dime. Moments you laugh- a slip of a lazy eye, a strange dance or giggle, and then you are catapulted into a world of terrifying imagery, left reeling from rows upon rows of exposed teeth.
The Losers’ Club are an equally effective counterpart. The kids really shine as a team. Their dialogue is effective and realistic. They can be crude and hilarious, as kids are – and then switch to something poignant and thoughtful. Their growing friendship, and the hurdles it faces in this film, is the glue that holds this entire story together. Without a successful Losers’ Club to empathise with and root for, our Pennywise would just be one cool clown short of a circus.
It movie succeeded in all it set out to do. They re-imagined an iconic character with it’s own rules, quirks, and mannerisms. They took us back in time, to a fictional small town (that I live pretty darn close to, actually) and made us fall in love with a new Losers’ Club. (Free of the perspective of their damaged adult counterparts. Sorry, novel and 1990 version. I still love you!) And they took all of those elements to deliver a story that is ultimately about friendship. It isn’t about a creepy clown terrorizing a bunch of kids (though there is a lot of that). It’s about sticking up for the little guy, defeating the bully, and vanquishing ancient evil clowns back from whence they came.