I hope that at this point in society we can come together as one and declare clowns as fucking creepy. White painted faces, colorful, ill fitting clothes, and whacko smiles that are the stuff of nightmares; all EXTREMELY fucking creepy.
Pennywise however, the shapeshifting killer clown who prowls on the children of Derry Maine, goes a step beyond. And clown shoes take awful big steps. Pennwise is downright disturbing. A big hand to Bills Skarsgard, whose joint popping, drooling, cross eyed performance is about the furthest thing from funny in the world.
And yet much of The Dancing Clown’s power is robbed from him as the film continues on and he is apparently content with just fucking around. A (stupid looking) leper here, a (even stupider looking) evil flute lady thing there, and not a whole lot of effective child munching.
IT does showcase it’s R-rating early, with poor little Georgie losing his arm after reaching into the sewer after his toy boat. Personally I wouldn’t have put my arm down there even if there wasn’t creepy fucking clown ranting about his balloon fetish, but that’s neither here nor there.
However after this shocking display of child cruelty, Pennywise just loses his teeth. It It’s really an omniscient, seemingly immortal, shapeshifting monster that feeds on fear, why the fuck isn’t it hunting the little brats after him down?
Freddy Kruger was scary because falling asleep meant you were D-E-A-D dead. The Losers Club hangs around Derry for months, after they’ve all seen Pennywise multiple times, with no repercussions. If there’s no sense that these kids are in danger, there’s no real tension.
Good news is that the kids, branding themselves The Loser’s Club, are absolutely worth rooting for. Some get more screen time than others, (guess that’s inevitable when you’re introducing seven new characters in a 2 hour film) but all of them are worth rooting for.
Motor Mouth Richie Tozier, played by Stranger Things Alumn Finn Wolfhard, is bound to be a fan favorite, cracking jokes all the bad yo momma jokes you remember from your youth, and discussing his preteen penis more than enough to make the audience plenty uncomfortable.
It’s the kids banter that’s the strongest part of the film, much stronger than the horror actually. While IT was plenty intense, and at times very disturbing, it was never actually all that scary. Part of this is poor explanation of what Pennywise actually is; his powers vary drastically, everywhere from warping tangible reality to being wounded by a pointy stick.
Another problem is repetition. Each of the (and there are seven) members of The Loser’s Club has their own encounter with IT, which vary drastically in quality. Ben’s headless, easter egg dropping zombie kid was actually pretty damn scary. Stanley’s giant weird flute lady thing was jaw droppingly awful looking and uncreative to boot. Come on guys, IT can turn into anything, anything at all, and this is what you picked?
But perhaps most damningly is that there’s simply too much material here, even for a 120 minute movie with an inevitable part 2. The novel upon which this film is based is 1,138 pages long, the kind of mammoth tome you balance tables with. There’s just no fitting everything that needs to be said in one, two, or perhaps even three or four films.
The Losers Club
Henrey Bowers, the psychotic bully who torments the Loser’s, get the shortest end of the stick here, going from a serious and deadly obstacle in the book into a one note villain who kills his dad, falls ass over ankles into a well, and little else. Going forward maybe they’ll do more with the character in the sequel, but right now he lands with a thunk.
IT isn’t a perfect film, nor is it going to rank up there with The Shining or Stand By Me (a film IT does often echo) as one of the great King adaptations. But its a worthy attempt at filming a novel that has often been called un-filmable, and a pretty good movie to boot. Let’s just say if I saw a clown offering me up a copy of the blu-ray in a storm drain……I still wouldn’t take it, but I’d probably rent a copy at Redbox.
7 out of 10