IT (2017) Review

Stephen King's "IT" was first adapted for live action in 1990 for a highly successful two-part miniseries, with Tim Curry earning a place as a horror pop culture figure as the villainous child-murdering clown Pennywise. Now that the property has been adapted for film twenty-seven years later it's no surprise that the larger budget and advance in technology has elevated the scale of visuals for the overall film. But other changes are present compared to the miniseries that are worth mentioning.

*Usual disclaimer for spoilers - though the book has been out for over thirty years now.*

The violence, when included in the film, is more vivid. Protagonist Bill loses his little brother Georgie to Pennywise early on in both adaptations and Georgie having his arm ripped off was always part of the story but in the film, we see it happen in a more forthright display than the mere implication of it that was in the miniseries. Beverly being a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father was something that the miniseries left out, opting instead to keep the abuse physical without a sexual component. But the manner in which this is included in the film is more thoughtful and purposeful than the usual exploitative manner that subject matter such as rape and sexual assault is used in Hollywood content.

The violence at the hands of Beverly's father is just one example of a recurring theme that this adaptation of "IT" beautifully portrays - that the true villain of the film is not Pennywise himself but those who consider themselves to be good and yet stand back and allow evil to flourish. Pennywise is the personification of Evil as an idea. He's sadistic, feeds on fear, and then feeds on the victims he's tormented and pushed to their edge. But time and time again, "IT" displayed adults that abused their children, set examples of harmful behaviour, and ignored the insidious happenings of the little town of Derry. The children of Derry are not simply heroes because they have the most screen time. They are the ones that jump up to try to help others when they are being victimised by violence.

One of the few weaknesses to the film is one that won't be picked up on unless the viewer is familiar with the source material. The book incorporates racism and homophobia as ways that fear manifests and can have a toxic effect on the well-being of people but just as the miniseries shied away from including homophobia, this newest film erases both that and the important racial aspect of Mike's story, the one lead non-white character. His being an outsider was always very much stemming from being back and the film would've been better off for having included it.

The cross-over appeal of "IT" lies in its strong character development and subversion from many of the stereotypes associated with contemporary horror films, such as mindless violence, nudity, exploitation, etc. The depth in story, strong performances, all elevate the content, as does the lush score that punctuates the narrative and classes it up through the use of an orchestral composition. The film doesn't overuse jump scares, opting instead to effectively build up tension through strong sound editing and visual effects that play into creative sequences of terror. "IT" stands out strong as not only one of the best films of the year, but as one of the best horror films of the modern era.

IT (2017) is now playing in theatres.


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