This is going to be a difficult one to do without sounding redundant and repetitive!!
I’m not a massive Stephen King fan and I don’t make any exception to that. I really find him to be an overrated writer. Ok granted, he has written some great stories in the past, but I often think a lot of the changes that adaptations of his work make tend to be for the better rather than the worse. Take the Shining, for example, the original was an amazing film, but if you had actually read the book you would be amazed to find that most of the iconic moments of that film were not in the book, they were film inventions. Whereas you take the adaptation that was incredibly loyal to Stephen King’s book that he wrote the screenplay for himself, you realise that this film is a boring mess. Now part of that is due to the fact that it adapts the book so loyally that it comes off as just a literal translation of the novel, which doesn’t match so well in the pacing department. For example you could give a description of several mundane activities to build tension, but when you do it too long in a film, it comes off as mundane and boring.
It is not one of my favourite adaptations and as Rob Walker pointed out, most people who like Stephen King’s work will even say it’s not one of his best works. I haven’t actually read the book so I am not aware of how close an adaptation this how, however, I have seen the original TV mini-series, which I re-watched in preparation for seeing this film and let’s just say, if you ever wanted a prime example of what Stephen King seems to put in a lot of his work, this would be a good example. It does have a lot of his clichés in it. So as much as Stephen King does do a variety of stories, he definitely has a few tropes that he seems to keep coming back to again and again on some level, so rather like that film, I would not recommend you play the Stephen King drinking game whilst watching this film.
Now I would go over the writers and directors of this film, but in this case I haven’t actually seen any of their previous works, so I haven’t got anything to judge about expectations going into it, so that leaves just going over the plot.
Now, if you are familiar with the last adaptation, nothing I tell you here is going to surprise you. In the town of Derry, Main, several children have been disappearing. In fact, their disappearance rate is six times the average rate in America. Seven kids, Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, Mike, Eddie and Stanley (played by, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff) respectively all start seeing sightings of very strange things including a clown called Pennywise, (played by Bill Skarsgard). The believe the clown is a paranormal entity responsible for the various disappearances, but just how do they beat it and come out alive?
I really don’t want to go into too much detail in case you haven’t seen the original and want to go in blind since there are a few genuinely interesting mysteries surrounding this one. Though, if like me, you are aware of the mini-series and have seen it, nothing here is going to surprise you although I will say that the writers and directors seem to have in mind that a lot of people did see it and are still frightened by the original, can’t understand why though, because I think this version does a lot of what that did better. For example, however interesting Tim Curry was in the role, he wasn’t that frightening per say. I think Bill Skarsgard’s version is a bit more creepy. The major reason being is the special effects, they are actually very good in this film for pretty much the most part, though some of them do play out for the 3D market, which is something they never should have aimed to have got in the first place.
The effects allow the creative to team to go all out with this one in a way that the TV mini-series could not, which will leave people that saw the mini-series rather shocked in the very first scene of the movie, mainly because in every other sense it actually plays out almost word for word with the original movie, but has a rather shocking end. It also has some fore shadowing, which I can’t go into because it’s a spoiler in more ways than one, oh, and incidentally, everyone who is aware of the revelation in the credits will know what I am on about.
The film is rather long, it comes in a 2 hr 10 mins, though if you are aware of the mini-series, there are no flashbacks, the entire film is told from the point of view of the children, cutting out the adult storyline entirely, this is much to the film’s benefit since that was the part of the mini-series that I enjoyed, and when compared with this version, it allows that story to be told out much better. The R rating also helps, because as a result they can go all out with the themes, for example, there is a Paedophilia storyline that was either cut out of the last one or is a film addition for this version. As I said, I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if it was in the book. Also, the bullies are allowed to be a lot more generally Psychotic, we see this in the sense that they actually use the pocket knife that they carry to carve his name into Ben’s chest (or at least attempt to) whereas the mini-series didn’t get round to that.
I promise I won’t make this review just tons of comparisons between this and the mini-series, since that’s rather unfair, I am only going to use it to compare characters later on down the line. So to take this film on its own merit, it’s actually kind of fun if you enjoy horror films. It’s quite dark and quite disturbing. There are some good scenes and some good moments. I think the best description I heard of this film is that it is basically either the Goonies or Stand By Me if you add a killer clown to the mix!! Now while that does sound slightly disjointed, they do work it in quite well. The clown actually becomes an interesting metaphor for various fears and aspects of the children growing up, since all these kids have turned thirteen and they have all hit puberty. It’s almost a fear of the unknown and growing up. That being said, however, I think the metaphor might be quite lost at times. There are some truly odd scenes that go nowhere at times, but that’s a minor complaint about the film. The clowns feel is a lot more effective this time around and as a result, he does seem to be a bit more deadly. No offence to the version with Tim Curry in. Tim Curry had a good job to do, but because of censorship rules of American Television, he wasn’t really allowed to go into graphic detail of killing the kids. This film has a much larger body count. As a result, it does feel like anyone can be picked off for death, although the tension may be lost on you if you have read the book, or the film, since as far as I can tell, they don’t go off script on who lives and who dies, it’s almost the exact same outcome, leaving me to suggest that both versions are, in different ways, loyal to the book. The other fact of the matter is, if you are aware of Stephen King stories, nothing much here is going to surprise you. You have everything, the story is being set in Main, you have the Rednecks, the comments on religion, the one dimensional bullies with no redeeming feature, and before anyone says anything about one of them coming from an abusive household, no that doesn’t count because it’s one scene, doesn’t really go anywhere and he goes back to exactly the way he was the next scene!! In fact the only thing that’s kind of missing is the alcoholic and the poet, although I think at least one of the kids parents was an alcoholic.
If there’s one thing I didn’t like about this film, it’s the dialogue. The story is set in the 80’s, the original book takes place in the 50’s, however, they have tried to modernise the dialogue even further. I am quite glad that they have tried to modernise and update things, but in this case I don’t think the kids now would talk like this. Seriously, some of the dialogue in this film is just repulsive and it really threw me out of a few scenes.
So, what do I like about the film? It’s creepy as hell!! Seriously, this is one of the creepiest films I have seen all year, plus, when the kids characters are written well, they are really enjoyable to be around and the child actors they got to play them are all excellent. I wouldn’t want to single any of them out because frankly that would be doing them a disservice. Bill Skarsgard is also in a real pickle here, he is the only other actor really mentioned, he has to step into Tim Curry’s shoes which is already a hard task to do considering how iconic the original Tim Curry version was. However, I do stand by that I think Bill Skarsgard did a better job in the role, although I think it’s because he had a much better written part. The only other actor I really feel is of mention is Stephen Bogaert, who plays Beverly’s dad in a really creepy role that he delivers all the right notes in.
As for the special effects, they are all dam good. I think the special effects department did a decent job this time around. There is nothing too amazing about them, but I will say the film does stand out, though at times they can appear a bit too CGI heavy and a few pixels are a bit out of place, something I think won’t look as bad on a Television screen when it comes out on DVD.
Also, while I am at it, the film’s soundtrack is pretty good all things considered. It matches the time period, which it also keeps reminding you of, with signs for Batmand and Nightmare on Elm Street, ok, we get it, it’s 1989!! You have pointed it out already!! But the film’s score is also fantastic, this could potentially get a few nominations, I know I have been saying this quite a bit this year, but I will say once again, I believe this one could potentially be in line for a few of the technical categories at the Oscars.
Should you see Stephen King’s It?
My advice is, if you like good horror films this one is definitely going to give you something interesting. If you are not that into horror films, however, I’m not sure this on is for you, this won’t change your mind really. The effects are pretty decent and it’s trying to tap into the nostalgia that Stranger Things put on us and in fact there are a lot of comparisons you can make to Stranger Things, not helped by the fact that one of the kids is actually played by one of the kids from Stranger Things. I do, though, think that this one is pretty good.
No mini-reviews this week as I have been away, but join me next Friday where I will be giving my thoughts on Kingsman The Golden Circle, the sequel to one of my favourite films of 2015.
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