Movie Review: It
Director: Andy Muschietti
by Jason Koenigsberg
Finally, Stephen King’s It receives a screen adaptation worthy of the source material. Granted the book is over 1100 pages and this film only covers the portions of the story that involve the children, but it does a successful job at that. It contains some very intense jump scares throughout and even the scenes that have appeared in every trailer and TV spot are still effective and thrilling in the actual movie.
The opening shot is a rainy, gray sky and the camera pans down to reveal trees and houses on a painfully typical, familiar suburban street. We go inside the house and the first scene is the same as the first scene from King’s novel. Here in the film the children are growing up in the late 1980’s instead of the 50’s and is established with pop culture references through music and movie references. The early scenes are trying very hard to capture the Steven Spielberg feeling of his 80’s work, and a lot of the moments with the kids bonding are almost like they were trying to remake Goonies outtakes instead of being their own movie. Thankfully once the horror starts to come front and center in It that nostalgic feeling evaporates and director Andy Muschietti crafts terror on screen very well. His previous big budget horror film Mama (2013) was very effective considering the limitations of being rated PG-13. Now with It he gets free range to play with R-rated elements and handles them expertly.
Right from the get go It establishes the type of movie the audience is in for. Early on we see that the darkness and evil that haunts the children in the town comes from underneath and that children in suburban America are still victims to violence that we are all a part of. There are even clever cuts that compare children in school to sheep about to be slaughtered. The cinematography and set design do a good job to paint Stephen King’s fictitious town of Derry, Maine as the quintessential American suburb. The focus is solely on the children. The adults in town are all either vile or purposefully turn a blind eye on anything violent or out of the ordinary. The performances from the child actors are better than expected and touch on some of the creepy sexual themes and imagery the book delves deeper into and Bill Skarsgard is decent as Pennywise the clown, not a scene stealer and some of the other incarnations and images in It are much more terrifying.
One of the finest aspects of It is how it strays from the characters in the book in some minor ways, and that its scary moments in the film are slightly different on screen than how they occurred on the page. So even Stephen King’s most faithful readers can be surprised when terror strikes our main characters. Halloween may be over a month away but It is everything an audience could ask for in a horror movie.