IT… didn’t really float my boat.
IT is based on the Stephen King novel, and tells the disturbing recurring events that happen within the town of Derry in Maine. Kids keep disappearing and sightings of a spooky clown, other visitations and red balloons occur. A group of bullied high school kids – one directly impacted by the disappearances – work to get to the bottom of the supernatural goings on. (Fortunately they don’t have a dog called Scooby).
I had in mind that with the disturbing and dangerous “clowning around” that happened in the summer of 2016 that this film had been shot a while ago and the release delayed until now for fear of adding ‘clown-flavoured fuel’ to the fire. But it appears that filming only completed in September of last year, so that appears not to be the case.
The film starts memorably and brutally with the “drain scene” from the trailer. And very effective it is too. “Great!” you think… this is a spookfest that has legs! Unfortunately, for me at least, it all went downhill from there. The film really doesn’t seem to know WHAT it’s trying to be. There are elements of “Stand By Me”; elements of “Alien”; elements of “The Conjuring”, all thrown into a cinematic blender and pulsed well.
The most endearing aspects of the movie are the interactions of the small-town kids, with this aspect of the film bearing the closest comparison with J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8”. This is carried by the great performances of the young actors involved, with Jaeden Lieberher (so memorable in “Midnight Special”) as Bill; Jeremy Ray Taylor (“Ant Man”) as Ben (‘the chubby one’); and Finn Wolfhard, in his big-screen premiere and sporting an absurd set of glasses, as the wise-cracking Ritchie.
Standout for my though was the then 14-year old Sophia Lillis as Beverly (the nearest equivalent to the Elle Fanning role in “Super 8”). This young lady has SUCH screen presence, reminiscent of Emma Watson in the Harry Potter films. I think she is a name to watch!
While commenting on the acting I do need to acknowledge Bill Skarsgård (“Atomic Blonde” and son of Stellan Skarsgård) who is creepily effective as Pennywise the clown.
Having a film that just centred on the pubescent interplay between the youngsters and their battles against the near-psychopathic school bully Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton, “Captain Fantastic”) would have kept me well-entertained for two hours. However, in the same way that the hugely over-inflated Sci-Fi ending of “Super 8” rather detracted from that film, so the clown-related story popping up all the time just irritated me to distraction. (“WILL YOU JUST FECK OFF AND LEAVE US TO FIND OUT WHO BEVERLY GETS OFF WITH???!!”)
While the film has a number of good jump-scares, a lot of them – especially those with excessive use of CGI – just don’t really work. There are normally no “outcomes” from the scares. It’s all a bit like a ghost train where the carriage rounds a corner, something jumps out, and then the carriage moves on round the corner again! What makes a great horror film is where the “science” of the horror is well thought through. “Alien” was an exceptional example of that, where the science wasn’t just “physics” but also “biology”. Here (and I’m not sure whether this is true to the book… this is one of Stephen King’s I haven’t read) there seems to be no rules involved at all. Things happen fairly randomly: shape-shifting and effects on physical objects happen with no rational explanation; the kids can see things adults can’t see. (Why?). In fact the “adults” – the usual mix of Stephen King dysfunctional small-town crazies – seem to have no significant part in the story at all. It’s all like some lame teenage fantasy where actions (a number of individuals in the story meet their demise) seem to carry no legal consequences whatsoever. I half expected Bill to wake up – Dallas style – at the end and realise it had all been an “awful dream”!
In particular, the denouement is highly dissatisfying. An opportunity for a (very black) twist in the plot is discarded. Pennywise the clown’s departure is both lame and unconvincing. And there are numerous loose ends that are never properly tied down (what was that “floaters descending” dialogue about?…. it was just never followed through!).
It’s not all bad though. The location shoots in Bangor, Maine and the Ontario countryside are all beautifully rendered by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (“Stoker”) and where the film clicks with the young cast it clicks well and enjoyably. I just wish that the overall film wasn’t just such a jumbled-up mess. Blame for that must lie with the screenwriting team and director Andy Muschietti (“Mama”). I’m going to give it a kicking in my rating, since with all the marketing build-up it was certainly a disappointment. I see though that at the time of writing that this film sports an unfathomably high imdb rating of 8.0/10 so I’ll acknowledge that somebody must have seen something more in this than I did!!
Fad Rating: FF.