Saturday, 16 September 2017

Review: IT

IT (2017)
Cert: 15 / 135 mins / Dir. Andy Muschietti / Trailer

Okay, some disclaimers and ground-rules before we get started on this one: As I've recently noted, I can't really class myself as 'a fan' of Stephen King. I haven't read the 1986 novel of IT, and I haven't seen the 1990 adaptation for long enough that I've largely forgotten it. I know that there are structural differences in Andy Muschietti's new version which mean it shouldn't really be compared too harshly with either, anyway. With that in mind, I'll be looking at the film very much as 'what it is', rather than 'what it should be'. If only I could apply this to everything I review, eh?

Anyway, I quite enjoyed it. Which came as something of a pleasant surprise, I won't lie. The main selling point here is the young cast, each easily conveying their own character without shouting over one another, and full credit to director Muscietti for co-ordinating this. Secondly, it's clear from the off that while IT contains all the trappings of A Horror Film™, they're not what it's about. The 2017 presentation rides hard on what should be a wave of Stand By Me-fuelled nostalgia. The problem is that with the likes of Super 8 and Stranger Things appearing in recent years, that vibe has never really gone away for long enough to have earned its heavy-handed homage in this re-adaptation*1.

Outstandingly performed, the film, or more importantly the cast, have enough character to paper across the fact that IT is over-written, over-directed, over-produced*2 and over-soundtracked. There's basically enough score for three movies in there, it's relentless. In fact, when the music does stop it only serves to further telegraph the scare that's on its way within 30 seconds. With a supernatural nemesis which tailors its appearance to suit the fears of the victim*3 (and there are seven in our main group of protagonists alone), this is very much the horror-equivalent of The Expendables. Andy Muschetti seems pathologically incapable of having a scene consisting of any reflection or downtime. The film ends up being more exhausting than creepy.

The key horror-setpieces here may be from the 1986 pen of Stephen King, but they've been used so much elsewhere over the years that IT often feels like a playful homage to its own genre. That said, it's great that visual effects seem to have finally caught up (for the most part) with King's imagination (...for the most part).

Among all this, anyone other than central gang gets pretty short-shrift in terms of development (even Pennywise is pretty much sketched in). At 135 minutes this already isn't a short film, but there's the impression that the screenwriters are still trying to cram more than is workable into the run-time. From a narrative perspective, this could actually do with being half an hour longer at least*4.

Anyway. I quite enjoyed IT.

But really though, why do those kids keep leaving their bikes in the road? It's 1989 and only three of them have got BMXs, which tells you about the level of general prosperity in the town of Derry. Frankly, you'd think they'd look after their stuff better, the ungrateful little shits…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
In terms of horror, Insidious.
In terms of camaraderie, Super 8

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Either/or, in all honesty.
Among the many reasons IT works, the size of the screen isn't on the list

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Just about but as I said up top, I'm not really qualified to make that decision.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
In terms of the young cast, they're either destined for huge things or to have this as the unmatched high-point of their CVs.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shouldn't imagine so.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Wyat Oleff is in this, and he was in Guardians of the Galaxy, as was Benicio 'going to be rolling up in The Last Jedi' Del Toro.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 I use this term advisedly. I've seen more than one person getting bent out of shape at folk calling IT 2017 a remake when it they think it should be classed as 'an adaptation'. No my friends, the 1990 version of IT was an adaptation. This is a remake, by default. Although I'll concede that enough's been done structurally to affirm it's not a shot-for-shot likeness, so re-adaptation it is. Don't @ me. [ BACK ]

*2 Much like Medusa from the Inhumans, young Beverly's 'long' hair is such a huge, badly fitting wig that you just know a hairdressing appointment has been booked before Act II. [ BACK ]

*3 And while I'm on, the over-designed features of Bill Skarsgård's Pennywise. Scary clowns have pretty much burned themselves out in terms of originality these days, and the truly effective part of Tim Curry's iteration of the villain was that he looked like a feasibly down-at-heel children's entertainer. This revised look is the kind of clown that (other than here) only exists in James Wan films and t-shirts from Spiral Direct. And why the hell does he sound like Griff Tannen? [ BACK ]

*4 Spoilers - highlight to read: And everyone's basically fine with Beverly just, y'know, killing her dad like that, yeah? I mean obviously he was a grade-A bastard, and obviously I was delighted when it happened, but still. Even if the poor kid isn't arrested, she's still going into psychiatric care at the very least. Or has nobody noticed since the only cop in the town was murdered around five minutes earlier in another sub-plot which feels for all the world like it's going to be glossed right over by the start of the next chapter? Like I said, I haven't read the book and don't really remember much of the Tim Curry version. Don't @ me. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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