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So, I went to see IT last weekend and I have thoughts. There will be some SPOILERS.
I haven’t wanted to write this until I had come to grips with my feelings on the movie. There’s…something of a history here. I read IT as one of my first adult books. At maybe 11, I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too young for IT, but I loved it all the same. It’s a gripping book, long and winding, building and receding, and constantly TENSE.
Even the scenes where the kids are screwing around are tense. There are LAYERS to the fear in Derry, Maine. For much of the book, the children are prey, subject to the whims of psychotic bullies, uncaring and irresponsible adults, and, of course, a psychopathic, shape-changing clown entity that eats fear named Pennywise. Every chapter of the book is suffused with tension as Stuttering Bill, Ben, Bev, Richie, Eddie, Stan, and Mike try to navigate their lives, like sparrows avoiding hawks, until the kids meet and form the Loser’s Club that will fight Pennywise, and their lives change.
The book also intermingles the adult and child world, instead of presenting two separate stories. I actually am very much on board with separating them for the films, as they create a natural ending point for the first chapter.
OK, that out of the way, I enjoyed IT.
All of that danger stuff I rambled on about in the beginning? It’s there, but it gets pushed aside quickly to focus on the threat of Pennywise. The bullies, Henry Bowers, Belch Huggins and Victor Criss, who spend an outsized portion of the book tormenting the kids, don’t have much to do. Pennywise is quickly established as the real threat, and you know that nothing the bullies will do can top what he can do.
You don’t give two shits about any of this.
Is it scary? Not particularly. For a movie about a creature that eats fear, it’s not great at creating iconic, scary faces. Nothing in this movie has you wondering what that noise was in your dark house or flipping on lights before you go to the basement. There are some jump scares, certainly, but nothing that sticks with you. I actually saw it with my wife, brother-in-law, father-in-law, and 9-year-old niece, and she handled it fine. (She could also handle most things, up to and including President of the United States fine, but that’s another story.)
Why do I call it an Amblin Entertainment Horror Movie? It embodies everything about a mid-80’s to 90’s Spielberg movie. The kids are terrific, without exception. Their camaraderie carries the film past the realm of a forgettable horror movie into something that you can watch repeatedly. It felt more akin to Temple of Doom or E.T. at parts than it ever did the novel that I love, but it was still marvelously entertaining, just like the best of Spielberg’s 80’s classics. It does suffer, however, from the breezy world building of the modern filmmaker, where plot points are breezed over and not explained, but not to the point where the movie was unintelligible.
The only real issue that I had with the changes to the story were what they did with the one girl of the group. Beverly Marsh is NOT a victim. She walks into the sewers to kill that monster with the boys, and is not a damsel in distress. She becomes a plot point instead of a person, which I found distasteful.
Overall, I’d give IT 4 Slaters out of 5.