Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff and Bill Skarsgård.
Directed by Andy Muschietti.
I’m actually reviewing a new film! I decided on this occasion to hand my (George’s) money over to Empire to see what all the fuss was about. If you read my top 10, you’ll see I’m a fan of horror and I’m always looking for a new one rather than re-watching old classics. Most of the new ones these days I wait for general release but It was something I was really keen to see.
The story follows seven young kids, identifying themselves as ‘The Losers’ Club’, taking it upon themselves to investigate the children that are going missing at an alarming rate. The mysterious culprit appears to be an immortal, creepy clown known as Pennywise. Well, it’s definitely different. Good different. There are of course typical horror conventions that remain predictable (running towards danger rather than away, jumps and blood etc.) but this horror definitely had depth that so many lack these days. I had seen the original 1990 TV series, so was pleased to see Muschietti had included subtle similarities in this 2017 remake.
Firstly, I have to say the soundtrack was epic. I hadn’t heard any of the songs before, and every song seemed to fit the scene perfectly. A lot of time and effort has obviously gone into this film to make it stand out and just offer the audience something else. The soundtrack matched the characters – it was youthful and fun. Some of the songs you wouldn’t expect to hear in a horror, but it really worked. It made the film really distinctive.
The casting was excellent too. You can’t beat a coming-of-age film in any capacity or genre, and to have a basically unknown, child-led cast was wicked. The set up was very similar to past classics such as The Goonies and Stand by Me (another King adaption) which means the kids are important, and Muschietti is patient enough to devote precious screen time establishing each member of the Losers’ Club and their respective dysfunctional lives. There’s a lot to get through, but each of the seven losers gets their time, and the result is a truly well rounded ensemble, as awkward and romantic as they are foul-mouthed and funny. Credit must go to the young cast, among whom there is not a single weak link; it’s as authentic a portrayal of children faced with adolescence, as you’re ever likely to see.
Crucially, the personal barriers that each of the Losers face, from hypochondriac mothers to sexually abusive fathers, are filmed with just as much menace and horror as the supernatural scenes, and are arguably more disturbing. This is It’s great strength: it wants you to care about these kids, invites you to share in their deep troubles and aids the facing-your-fears story by being, fundamentally, a human drama first and a supernatural horror second.
It was also really funny! A black comedy. Apart from being enjoyable, the comedy actually keeps you hooked and encourages you to keep guessing. Like, someone just died or succumbed to injury and we are laughing at Richie’s latest remark? It’s a weird mix but again, it really worked. It took the sting out of many of the jumps that feature throughout. Finn Wolfhard in this film especially was ridiculously entertaining.
So we come to Pennywise. For me, I’m really picky about what scares me. The original Pennywise, played by the great Tim Curry was way scarier for me because it was just a human in a costume, something that could easily happen. What do you think?
Jump forward to 2017; Pennywise has longer teeth, a warped face and menacing, unnatural eyes. Doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid. I mentioned before the typical horror stereotypes it adheres to – in a way it was also a let down for me. It becomes unrealistic when the kids voluntarily go down into the basement, or follow the creepy voice upstairs or outside. Obviously kids if anyone are the least likely to do that! Pennywise should have crept up on them unannounced for sure. I also got bored towards the end on the kids quest to kill Pennywise. It really dragged. The tunnels were really disorientating, and you lose track of where each character is and why on earth they would run off from the group. It also just became really unrealistic, and took all the fear out of the situation. Horror for me has always worked far better on minimal special effects and CGI. Isn’t it more petrifying when you are watching something that could easily happen? I jumped a lot through the film, but whether that was through fear or just a nervous disposition I’m not sure.
I liked this film because it was about much more than Pennywise (the horror aspect). It’s refreshing to have a different modern take on a horror, and to have a bit more of the budget dedicated to the sound and cinematography department than just the special effects and how to maximise anxiety . Maybe I just have to accept that if I chose to go and see a film like this, I have to expect an element of improbable scenarios and just hope the narrative and other aspects make for a pleasant viewing experience. I think I will give it four!