Before becoming such an aficionado of Stephen King’s literary works, I still had knowledge of his writings and knew the connection he had of books-to-film as far back as I can remember. From the first adaptation of Brian De Palma’s Carrie in 1976 and all through the first part of the 80s, I’d recognized Stephen King as a writer of horror fiction, but never dove into his books until my senior year of high school. Finally being curious about what was so special about this author, I’d borrowed my brother’s paperback of “It” and dove into it, all the while worried about the size of the book (I’d made sure to check out the page-count and was a little perplexed to see it was over 1,100 pages long…longer than any book I had read in that period of my life). Within the first chapter, however, I found I couldn’t put it down and was completely taken into another world—another city and another time, in fact—to the made-up small town of Derry in Stephen King’s home state of Maine.
I don’t know how long it took to get through it—it didn’t feel that long, it felt like too short of a time—but I was amazed, and a bit saddened, by the time I’d finished it. Amazed at the imagination King had put down on paper and saddened because I’d come to the end of that great story. To this day, whenever anyone asks or talks about his catalog of stories, I cite Stephen King’s “It” to be my favorite of all his books.
Some few years later, in 1990, a television event was broadcast—“Stephen King’s It”—which was a bit disappointing, since TV movies had its limits compared to a theatrical release. But the film had—and still has—its merits, particularly the first half of the film, so it’s still enjoyable to watch. However, the terrifying aspects and the wondrous descriptions of the creature were missing from the film, so it left me—as well as a lot of other Stephen King fans—a little flat.
So…what did I think? Let’s break down the plot first…
A group of bullied kids—Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff)—calling themselves The Losers Club, band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), begins hunting children.
As a teenager, just starting to devote my life to the fantastic world of Stephen King novels, reading this book was terrific and I’d always imagined the goings-on in the story as a possible movie. One of the first monster encounters described in the book is when the character of Georgie Denbrough (played by Jackson Robert Scott in this new adaptation) is taken as Pennywise’s victim. It’s horrific and viscerally described, which led me to believe a movie would never show a scene as shocking as what I’d read. Now, in 2017, it finally had come to fruition just as I’d read it in 1986 and it was as scary and shocking as I’d imagined it to be. It was at this point of the movie that I’d known…this flick was going to be fantastic.
For me, the standout of the ensemble was Jack Dylan Grazer playing the character of Eddie Kaspbrak. Remembering the book, the character wasn’t really that much of an important part of the story, but the professionalism and performance displayed by this young man were really felt. He had quite few funny moments, especially between him and Finn Wolfhard (playing Richie Tozier, who, understandably, stole the movie with his constant quips and dirty jokes).
For a horror film, you’d think there wouldn’t be too much emotion felt, but there were quite a few moments nevertheless. You experience this, even in the trailer before the movie was released, between the brothers Bill and Georgie, as the older brother makes his younger one a paper sailboat to play with out in the flooded gutters of the neighborhood street. Even in the later scenes where you’re not sure if Bill is really seeing his little brother or if it’s a forced vision that Pennywise had created, it’s heartbreaking at times.
Now, let’s talk about Pennywise…
Although the TV movie back in 1990 was pretty tame, it can be agreed by most that the performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise was what made that flick watchable. The makeup and outfit, complete with his menacing performance, will always have a place in Stephen King fans’ hearts. So to have a new actor donning the clown shoes must’ve been a bit worrying for all involved. However, rest-assured, the moment we see Skarsgård for the first time, enticing Georgie Denbrough to reach for his sailboat that fell down into the sewer, we’re in—all in. The bulbous head, the grease-painted face, and the tufts of orange-red hair…it’s both terrifying (as most clowns tend to be, regardless of what the World Clown Association may think) and friendly, oddly enough. Skarsgård goes from a hilarious giggle-inducing caricature to a menacing fiend in an instant, definitely sending shivers down your spine with his glowing eyes and sinister smile. Although he doesn’t have much screen time, when Pennywise shows up, it usually scares the hell out of you.
If I can point out a minor weak aspect of the film, it’s probably just the absence of some character development. But that’s to be expected in a film with such a big cast, there’s just not enough time to tell everybody’s story. The important thing to see in this film is that these children band together and do what’s necessary to fight the evil bestowed upon their town, and to do it as loving friends—that definitely shows.
I really wish I can go on and talk about some of the scenes that were entertaining and memorable, but I don’t want to spoil too much of it…it just needs to be seen and felt without knowing much about the story. Instead, I’ll just give you my final “bit” on It...
Thanks for reading!