"You'll float too....you'll float too....you'll float too....YOU'LL FLOAT TOO!!!" - Georgie Denborough
It has been a while since I sat down to review a movie – so let's do a quick recap of what I haven’t opined on – I loved Wonder Woman and Spider-Man Homecoming. Pirates of the Caribbean was way better than I dared hope (just don’t leave that plot thread dangling) and Transformers blew my mind as they always do with sheer scope, spectacle and ‘splosions. Again – we have a plot thread we need continued to its conclusion. Forty Metres Down was a satisfying shark movie – almost on a par with last year’s The Shallows. Cars 3 was a delight from start to finish and with my own retirement from the day job rolling toward me, strangely poignant.
There- that’s a short summary of what I’ve seen since we last spoke.
Now, to the matter at hand – It.
I am a huge Stephen King fan. King is one of those writers where I absolutely NEED the latest book in my hands on the day of publication. It’s a long tradition. I can’t even wait for the paperback any more. In fact, I think the last paperback I bought was Dolores Clayborne. Ever since Gerald’s Game, it’s been hardback, day of release all the way.
I remember reading It when it was published. I still feel I let myself down by not buying the hardcover with the exquisite clownhouse cover.
I loved that book. It was a book that I couldn’t put down, yet I didn’t want the story to end. I felt that Stephen King had finally peaked. I still think it’s a hell of a book to try and beat. I thought that due to the length of the story and the constant flashbacks, that we’d never see a screen adaptation. But I was wrong. A truly exquisite TV adaptation was made and immediately added to my VHS collection, later, as technology progressed, it was upgraded to DVD. Perfect casting all round. Especially Tim Curry as Pennywise. That was inspired.
In that TV adaptation, given the constraints of what can be shown on network TV, I saw everything I wanted to see. Several elements of course couldn’t be filmed, and had they been, they couldn’t be shown. The story itself was truncated to allow for a two 90 min part running time. What survived was pretty satisfying. Yes, it was watered down, but understandably so. It’s a Stephen King adaptation that I like to watch, and have done so repeatedly over the years.
So – a remake? Is this really necessary?
Simple answer – shockingly, is yes. The remake is completely valid.
It’s a different take on the same story.
Now, if you’ve read this far, you probably already know the story. But if you don’t here is a supersonically fast recap.
In the town of Derry, Maine – an evil supernatural force personified as Pennywise the clown turns up every 27 years to claim lives. A group of kids defeat the evil, but have to be prepared to fight again as adults 27 years later. There. Pretty much spoiler free.
On to the film then – so, there’s the plot up there except that this movie is part one of two and deals exclusively with the time that the kids were pitted against Pennywise. A major deviation from the book is that the film is set in the late eighties, not the late fifties which makes sense as the next instalment will be set in the present day. (Remember, the book was published in 1986.)
As can be expected, there are differences between the book and the film, just as there are sequences in the TV version that are included in the book but not in the film. The end result is that basically, it all works out. Sorry the cinema sequence and the werewolf in the school janitor’s room isn’t here but there ya go. Sacrifices had to be made.
The opening sequence is a lot nastier in the film, not to mention graphic and shocking. Literally as King described – as are many of the other scenes. Overall, this is a strong and powerful horror film that should bring horror movies back to the limelight. Certainly if the opening night’s box office is anything to go by. Horror has been cheapened and diluted lately in my opinion. We’ve had far too many hauntings and possessions “based” or “inspired” by a true story. They’re all boringly interchangeable and all rely on a loud blast of music to elicit a shock from the audience without the care or attention being taken to create an atmosphere of unease or mounting terror. It has the same effect as sneaking on someone and shouting “boo”. A cheap scare at best. Really aggravating at worst.
Not the case with It, where the scares are meticulously built, lair by lair.
It, of course ultimately stands or falls on the depiction of Pennywise the clown. Tim Curry was as ideal a piece of inspired casting as I’ve seen in years. And in those years, he had been accepted by fans as the definitive Pennywise who couldn’t ever be replaced recast or duplicated.
However, Swedish born actor Bill Skargard is more than capable of amping up the scares as Pennywise. His presence permeates through the film, whether he’s on screen or not, making this easily one of the best King adaptations I’ve ever seen. Part of what makes Skarsgard’s performance so memorable and downright disturbing is his eyes. The man’s pupils are off centre when he looks at the camera. This is something that the actor could actually do, not a special effect. Skarsgard can actually look in two directions at once. It’s spine chilling to see, especially when the actor keeps the rest of his face perfectly still.
Sadly, we have to wait until September 2018 for the second half of the story, where the grown up kids return to Derry. That’s going to be a long twelve months to wait – but if the second is as well executed and downright scary as this – it’ll be worth the wait and the payoff will be awesome.
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