I have been a huge Stephen King fan for as long as I have been reading novels, but IT was the one that I intentionally avoided, because, y’know, clowns. Upon seeing the trailer for the upcoming film I decided that I would finally delve in and face my fears.
What I’m trying to get at is- I’m that “read the book first” asshole.
IT- the novel- really touched my heart. I became obsessed with how it made me feel to read it. It was a great surprise to find out that it is not only a story about harrowing levels of fear and horror in both the supernatural and natural sense, but it is a story about the romance, beauty and purity of young friendship. The spiritual connection between the “Losers Club” throughout as they deal with the pain in their own lives, as well as this haunting entity that is consuming their town is the primary focus of the story. I have never been on an emotional ride quite like it.
So, I went into “IT” with a blend of emotions that I normally don’t bring into my cinematic life- excitement and complete and utter fear. I don’t watch horror movies. I don’t like to be scared. I HATE gore. Despite all of that, I was seduced by the idea of letting this movie funnel through my system, almost like a cleansing experience for my fragile soul. There was a very good chance that I would walk away traumatized.
IT was incredibly respectful and faithful to its source material in many ways, from the underlying themes, the makeup of its characters, and the childlike sense of humor and fear alike. The kids are charismatic (every actor is AMAZING), emotional and hilarious, the cinematography is gorgeous and very representative of the time period, and Pennywise was, well, terrifying. I was slightly less than sober as a security measure, but I was honestly scared at a level that I haven’t been in a long time. I was fucking scared, okay!? IT and actor Bill Skarsgard capture the oddball, creepy style of Pennywise that Stephen King created while perfectly conveying how terrifying the shape shifting demon truly is.
It appeared that many of the effects used in the film were practical, which really added to the retro feel and gave a lot more realism to the horror, creating visual scares that are a perfect blend of camp and creep. IT is a childs worst nightmares come to life, as it was meant to be.
As for any critique, there was a large volume of content left out from the 1000+ page epic that it drew from, but a huge portion of that material was focused on the psychological and physical violence that happened when IT wasn’t around. It also delved deeply into the forces at work behind the encounters. There was less emphasis on the evil enveloping the town of Derry itself, with more focus on the physical incarnation of its monster. I was surprised that the presence of the bullies of Derry were so dialed back-seeing as Bowers was just as much a villain as IT in the novel, along with Bevs father and Eddie’s mother. Bowers is psychotic and disgustingly racist,like his father, and his constant pursuit of the kids is heart pumping. The rock fight scene, for example, was dealt with in a rather passive way in the film, where it was originally a VERY tense situation-fueled by murderous rage. The storyline involving the bullies was essentially kicked to the curb, so although I was clearly rooting for them, there was little sympathy built up for the hell that these “losers” go through everyday. Though it was never acknowledged outwardly, the courage that compels these kids to take on a monster is meant to come out of their connection to the spiritual forces behind IT. Every action is one that is necessary, because they are being influenced, almost used, and the kids themselves can feel the magic of said forces guiding them through this story. The strength of their bond comes heavily from the time that they spend being there for one another, learning to love one another, building an impenetrable circle by facing the Derry monster head on to learn more about it. That element was missing in many ways, but their actions spoke to these ideas.
Despite the absence of alot of material crucial to the makeup of IT, the pacing of the film was thoughtfully structured to fit in everything that they intended to, and I feel that they effectively wound the story to their will. There was rarely a dull moment.
Now I can only hope that the next installment (or installments?) are just as satisfying. I presume that they will involve more of the missing elements in the coming chapters, like the specifics about what IT is. The ending seems to lend itself to the idea that we are not supposed to understand what IT is at this point, or what IT wants- only what IT is capable of.
All said and done, the one thought that continued to dance through my head as I was shaking and closing my eyes was simply “this is perfect”-and it was, for me. I wanted to see IT, and I did. I felt all of the emotions that I felt while reading it, and I loved it all the more for taking me back into that head space. It felt like something from Stephen Kings mind.
This sounds so bizarre coming from me, but I loved a movie about a killer clown. Now I just need a few days to be able to fall asleep again.