IT (2017) Review

IT (2017) is a story we can all relate to. Growing up in a small town, unpopular, but having loser friends to commiserate with, a killer clown monster ruining summer break. IT is a tale as old as time. 

[Note: For simplicity's sake, from this point forward I will be refering to 2017's IT movie as IT and the 1990 version as 'the original.']

IT, both the monster and the film, have returned 27 years after the last appearance as a television miniseries. While the orignal was constrained with what can be shown on the silver screen, the new version has no such restraints. That is one of IT's greatest assets. It doesn't have to pull any punches or rely on euphemism. It is brutal and atmospheric, a combination that makes it a far cry more terrifying than the original. While the original did have it's moments, it skewed more towards the disturbing rather than the outright horrific. The new IT has scares to spare across its 2 hour and 15 minute run time. It is also refreshing to see that very little of the film is spoiled by any of the trailers I saw. As such, the less I say about the specifics of the movie, the better. All I will say is that if you like horror movies, you could do a hell of a lot worse than this. 

That's not to say this is a perfect or even great horror movie. IT is truly really quite good, but it also has some pretty big shortfalls. The most glaring of which is with the Loser's club, a collection of outcast children the movie follows. The only people they have are each other and they are determined to swear as much as real children who just discovered they can swear in private and not get in trouble. While these little scamps are charming as hell and invoke some powerful nostalgia for that age, they really get short changed on their characterizations. The original, even though it spent less time on the children's part of the story, went out of its way to explain who each kid was and how that led to their choices as an adult. One wrote stories and grew up to be a writer, one told jokes and grew up to be a comedian, one was Jewish and grew up to be an accountant. So on and so forth, but small moments were taken to bring their hopes and aspirations to the front right. In the new version, however, these moments aren't taken. The focus is so much on their lives being affected by Pennywise the dancing clown, that the characters themselves are not given the opportunity to flourish. Moreover, they shifted around character roles for no apparent reason and even rob one character of their agency towards the end of the film. This is a major shame as each and every one of the actors does a pretty stand out job in their performances. 

Less of a criticism, but more of an observation is that the IT franchise has a weird reliance on fairly out of place montages. The original made sure to take breaks to show the Loser's Club fixing up and old bike or having a big dinner while a jaunty tune plays underneath it. IT has its own share of these as well. Another thing of note is that the new version of Pennywise looks striking like Helena Bonham Carter's Red Queen from the terrible 2010 Alice in Wonderland film. Not a deal breaker, but I never could shake that feeling. 

The horror genre has very few pillars to point to when someone asks for a good film to watch, and that list only gets shorter the more recent you limit it to. IT is one more you can add to that list.