I’ve read IT twice now. I read it about 5 years ago for the first time, and re read it again earlier this year. It’s one of my top 5 favorite books of all time for sure, right along with 1984, 11/22/63, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Shining. Stephen King is my favorite author, and I have read everyone of his works. So with his movie adaptations, people could say that I am biased either way. I’m either going to be too critical or too lenient. I happen to disagree, I think I’m the perfect person to judge his film adaptations. Maximum Overdrive and The Dark Tower are two of the biggest pieces of shit in cinema history. I do love Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but feel that the ending short sighted it from being one of my all time favorites. I think the miniseries 11/22/63 was ho hum, but Frank Daranbont’s The Shawshank Redemption is in one of my top ten slots of my favorite films of all time, and The Green Mile ain’t too shabby either. So I’m all over the board with Stephen King adaptations. It could go either way, or it could be straight dead mediocre middle. I love the novel IT, and to say that I think this film is the best Stephen King adaptation since The Shawshank Redemption is no easy feat. Saying it is the one horror film that had freaked me out since the original Scream and the U.S. Version of The Ring, I say in confidence. I enjoyed and was frightened from beginning to end of IT, and think it is the perfect companion to the novel. One of the years’ best films.
Is IT perfect? Hell no. No book to film adaptation is. Some things are changed, for better or for worse. The only straight page to page adaptation I have ever seen is the first Harry Potter film. So when a film isn’t a page to page vision, you have to judge it one what it does bring to the table. It brought everything plus the kitchen sink. My heart pounded from beginning to end, even though I knew the fates of most of the characters. There are a couple of jump scares, but the film mainly tries to get into your head on what fear truly is, what a human being fears, what a child fears. This isn’t horror 101 where it is a cheap jump scare a minute, no, this film mostly has the tension of what lurks in the dark, rather than what just pops out of it.
I’m not going to get into novel vs. film specifics, but to say that it didn’t include two controversial scenes including a homosexual child encounter and a gang bang wasn’t surprising. Those two parts in the novel always bothered me, they are unfilmable and if you were to put it to screen, you’d get slapped with an X rating faster than stealing a cookie out of the cookie jar. It doesn’t try to explain the turtle or Dark Tower connection, but it definitely is there and is hinted at. And of course, this is the kid’s story, so we don’t see the adult versions of themselves. That is going to be saved for Chapter 2, and rightfully so. The book intersperses the two, but for film, that won’t work. We get half the novel here, and at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it is the perfect length to get that half of the story correct. And do they get it correct.
Because you see, the novel is really about childhood and adulthood and how the two correlate. So if you don’t cast the right actors for IT, and they don’t work, you movie immediately tumbles. Thankfully, this is the best child actor casting I have seen in decades. Every casting decision in this is perfect. From Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough (yes he does stutter, the trailers just don’t show it, and he does it naturally) to Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, to Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, and the rest of the gang, they are all perfect. They all deliver their lines with grace, humor, and precision. Their chemistry is off the charts fantastic, and they all exemplify the most important aspect: being believable. It’s the best child acting and chemistry since The Goonies. In fact, this film feels like an 80s nostalgia pic, that Super 8 got super close to copying, but didn’t quite get there, this film does. When The Losers are together on screen, it is magic, and yet they still hold their own when it comes to their individual scenes.
Now let’s get to Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Loved it, creepy as fuck, and will make you have clowns dancing in your nightmares. His childlike demeanor and voice are scary and perfect at the same time, really inhabiting what I imagined IT was in the novel. If there is any complaint I have about the film, is that it uses CGI with Pennywise a little two often when practical effects would’ve worked perfectly. It even uses CGI at a point where he is just standing there, which confused me immensely. Maybe they didn’t get a good take and had to redo in post? I don’t know. But while Skarsgard is still fantastic, he would’ve been masterful if not for that damned CGI. I did love though how the movie was brutal and pulled no punches when it came to the horrifying violence. I’m tired of movies making violence off screen when some butthurt punk doesn’t like what he sees on screen when children are being harmed. It’s a fucking movie, deal with it.
I loved how Pennywise is used sparingly though, like he is in the novels, only when he is meant to be there. The kids still see what they fear, it isn’t always just Pennywise. We get the leper and eerie woman painting, and Pennywise shows up to just add to the flavor. You only really get to see him at the very beginning, a minor showdown in the middle, and at the very climax. Speaking of the climax, Pennywise’s lair has to be my favorite set piece of the year. I won’t go into spoilers but I completely and utterly dug what they did and how they relate it to certain things Pennywise says. Magnificent set decoration, design, the whole she bang, I could watch that set piece for hours trying to decipher everything that is in it.
One more complaint, while I loved loved loved loved loved the musical score, it overwhelmed the film at times where it just needed to be silent. Benjamin Wallfisch made a creepy, eerie, yet magical soundtrack, it’s just used in the wrong places in the film, where silence would’ve been golden. You don’t need musical cues to tell you when to be afraid sometimes, you need the silence of the unknown. If the soundtrack was cut off at certain moments, it definitely would’ve elevated the film a lot.
But for my two complaints, I still love this version of IT, and it kicks the shit out of the mini-series back in 1990, great Tim Curry performance and all. I could re watch this multiple times and still enjoy every wonder that pours out on the screen. My heart pounded nearly the entire time and by the time the credits rolled, I was exhausted. Speaking of credits, the credits did something that made me just want to stand up a cheer, you’ll know it when you see it. People that have read this book, don’t have reservations, the film is great, so go and see it. Those who don’t, and find the movie interesting, or love horror films, etc. go check it out, you’ll have a hell of a time. I could float all day in the glory of IT. I could float in the cinematography, the directions, the shots, the acting, for hours on end. And of course you knew I would end with this, if you see it, you’ll float too.