Friday, September 8, 2017

IT Review

Happy Halloween everyone! Yes, I know it's early September and not October, but if Christmas can get three or four whole months of celebration for some people, then I think it's perfectly fine for Halloween to get a full two months. Hollywood always starts the Halloween movie season in September, anyways, so they can get a jump on the Halloween box office. We're just a few weeks earlier than normal because usually studios avoid the first two weeks of September like the plague. This year Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema were like, "Screw it. We're releasing our big movie in early September, anyways." Yes, that made me nervous because sometimes studios dump the bad movies in early September, so maybe they had a lack of confidence in this "IT" remake? Turns out that's not the case as this movie is going to destroy box office records, which I think is very good news for Hollywood as it shows that movies can still make a lot of money outside your typical blockbuster release date. Thus summers and holiday seasons don't have to be so crowded. That's part of the reason why this summer and last summer did so poorly comparatively. Too many films cannibalizing their potential. So "IT" doing well this weekend is a great sign.

That aside, with all the hype that "IT" has been getting and the huge money totals it's about to take in, is it worth it? Should you drop all you are doing and go see the latest iteration of Pennywise the dancing clown terrorize a new group of young kids? If you are a horror fan and/or you loved Stephen King's novel along with the 1990 TV mini-series, then the answer is yes. Or at least make this a priority at some point during this Halloween season, because I'm sure this will be sticking around throughout the season. Speaking of the novel and mini-series, though, let's talk about those first. Being straight up, I have not read the novel and I did not grow up with the nostalgia of the mini-series. But I made sure to watch the mini-series before seeing this movie. Or at least the first half with them as kids, because that's what the movie is all about. I meant to see the second half with them as adults, but didn't get around to it. That first half, though, I found fascinating. I thought "IT" was all about a killer clown terrorizing people, but there's a lot more depth and psychological aspects to it than I was expecting. There was also a lot of mystery and intrigue to this thing that was haunting them. And I can totally see how it traumatized everyone's childhoods.

All of those elements that made the first half of the mini-series so fascinating translated rather well into a full-length movie based solely on that first half. With the mini-series attempting to tackle the whole novel, that first half ends up only being 94 minutes long, which would work just fine for this movie if that was the direction they wanted to go. But instead they decided to slow things down a bit, taking more time to set up the story and develop these characters. Thus we get a movie that's 135 minutes long. Pretty long for a horror movie, but there's never a dull moment. In fact, I really loved the added time to the story. Covering all this ground in the mini-series made it so things were a bit rushed. Clown attacks happened faster and closer together. The kids bonded quicker and there wasn't enough time to dive into the depth of their relationship as a group of friends. I mean, they did a fine job with it, but once you watch this new movie and compare the two, you'll realize how much better the added time makes this as this is a marvelously directed movie that manages to be a huge improvement over the mini-series, which again, I've loved what I've seen so far. That's an impressive feat in a day of sloppily done remakes.

As far as the horror elements of the movie, I really like the character of Pennywise. Having not finished the mini-series, nor read the novel, I actually don't yet know all the secrets behind what or who he really is. I just know that he is some sort of demonic clown. What makes him a lot more interesting than your typical demonic presence haunting people is that he preys on the fears of each individual kid and he does so in a way that makes each kid believe that Pennywise is only haunting him or her. Both in the mini-series and in the movie you have the scene with the girl in the bathroom where everything gets covered in blood, and when the father walks in it is obvious that he can't see any of it. Thus the haunting is personal. It's secretive. And it's different for every kid. One kid might be afraid of blood. Another clowns. Another is haunted by a traumatic event in the past. One is afraid of disease. And they all get their time alone in the movie where, out of nowhere, this greatest fear of theirs is brought to life in the most horrific way and is followed up by Pennywise coming out of the haunting, showing that he is boss, that he is responsible and that he is out to get them. And we don't hold back either as Pennywise shows he's not afraid to attack and kill the kids.

In terms of the level of terror, while I found the mini-series fascinating, certain elements of it were a bit outdated and cheesy watching it in 2017. Thus it wasn't as scary to me. I can totally understand how it terrified people back in the day, especially when they were young when they watched it. But I was more fascinated by the angle it took with the horror rather than the horror itself. The movie adaptation was NOT that way. Yes, the angle it took is equally as fascinating, but each sequence of haunting is absolutely terrifying. I've watched enough horror films that I don't get scared at each jump scare or scary image. Thus I almost challenge a movie to actually scare me while doing a great job of making a movie. But this movie got me. Quite a bit. The horror sequences are horror done right. We focus on the lighting and the setup. The score plays a huge role when things are about to get serious. Then we have lots of creepy imagery followed up by Pennywise showing up without you expecting it and either jumping right out and you are chasing you through whatever place you're in. It made for quite the exhilarating thrill ride throughout the whole movie that never lets up. When you're not being flat out terrified, you are nervously anticipating the next time Pennywise shows up.

Yes, we have an excellent demonic villain that fascinatingly feeds on the worst nightmares of each individual kid in a horrifyingly personal way and we have well-directed horror sequences that are flat out terrifying. The thing that sets this movie apart from other horror movies that also captured those elements well is that this is also a rather beautiful and touching coming of age story. It plays out very much like a movie like "The Goonies" from back in the 80's or a TV show like "Stranger Things" from very recently where the heart and soul of the movie is strictly on the shoulders of a group of kids and the quality of the show depends on how well they do as child actors and how much you care for them. "IT" is absolute top notch when it comes to this. All the child actors in this movie are so great, which I have to give partial credit to them for pulling of performances as well as the director for making it happen. I loved seeing this group of kids come together and bond. Each of them got their own time in the spotlight, making for a very well developed group of kids. And I loved watching all the drama unfold, both positive and negative, as they come to realize that all of them are being haunted by Pennywise and they need to work together to stop him.

I think the only minor thing holding this movie back from me giving it an even higher score than you'll see me give it is that this is very much a conventional horror movie. And that's not a knock on the movie. In fact, I'd say it makes it more accessible to general audiences than some other stuff. But I personally find myself gravitating towards the unconventional horror films when it comes to horror films that absolutely blow my mind. Recent horror films that I have given super high praise to include "The Babadook," "The Witch" and "It Comes at Night," all of which are the unconventional route. You know, the type or horror films that me and the critics love while general audiences seem to hate. But that's more of personal preference. "IT" is your typical haunted house type of horror film that most audiences expect and want from a horror movie. Thus it's not going to be as high on my list of horror films as some. But I have to give credit where credit is due and "IT" plays all those typical conventions to perfection, thus I can honestly see this movie becoming a seasonal Halloween classic for many that will definitely ruin the careers of all of the clowns around the world. They might as well just get a new job because no one will want them around. My grade for "IT" is a 9/10.

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