Warning: This probably contains mild-ish spoilers. Maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it’s just a discussion of my impressions of a movie.
I went and saw the latest film version of Stephen King’s IT over the weekend.
It’s (Heh. Okay, I won’t do that again.) quite literally haunted my subconscious. Which is a pleasant surprise.
I went in with relatively mild expectations. I’m of the opinion that today’s film industry has major potential when it comes to remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, reinterpretations, and the odd sequel. That potential isn’t always delivered on, but it’s there. For example, I thought that Disney should have left their animated classics well alone, until I watched 2016’s The Jungle Book. That film was quite the shock. It left the original intact, while presenting an amazing re-imagining that can appeal to both the older generation who grew up with the original and a new generation who never knew it.
I’ve never read a King book, but I’ve watched many of the movies based on his culture-defining works. I watched the original IT movie-cum-miniseries featuring the legendary Tim Curry when I was a teen. At the time it was not only underwhelming, it was the subject of ridicule in our group. Never-mind that we watched the two-sided DVD the wrong way ’round, we thought it was utterly rubbish.
No such accusation can be levelled at 2017’s IT. My, what a film. I’m going to be bold: this is the best movie I’ve seen in theatres this year, and a strong contender for my personal MOTY (why is that not a thing? Damn your Oscars and Globe things, let’s have more MOTY lists).
For long periods of my life, I’ve avoided scary films. I had an over-active imagination as an only child, and I really didn’t need the stress, especially not as a result from an escapism activity. As an adult, having come to terms with most of my ethereal demons, I’ve started seeking out some good thrills in the form of the odd scary movie. And yet, this rendition of IT, while containing the scares you would expect, transcended a mere horror movie with tropes and jump scares. This was a complex, multi-layered story with actual character development, a compelling story, and a mixture of clear and subtle themes all centred around the menagerie of main characters.
Of course, I’m no film critic, so I won’t dive deep into the themes and such. However, I appreciated that through a mixture of stellar casting, phenomenal acting, inspired direction, fantastic writing, and astounding cinematography, IT held me firmly glued to the screen. There was a main story thread, supported by a spectacular balance and combination of secondary and tertiary narratives. They came together simultaneously without overwhelming or speaking down to the viewer.
The group of young actors, along with their supporting adults, was an ensemble that I imagine will be hard to top any time soon. The individual talent on display, and the collective effort to bring the relationships to the fore in a realistic and meaningful way, left a deep impression on me.
The movie had its share of scary moments, but I found myself only jumping once. Most of the time the pre-scare cues were fairly obvious, so you could at least steel yourself. Despite that, the tension that was built was often palpable, and would get my pulse racing. I had the odd moment where I was ripped out of my immersion by the inherent silliness in an attempt at a scare here and there, but for the most part I was held in my seat by a strong sense of impending doom.
It’s my understanding that this version of IT, the first of two parts, is so far the most faithful in capturing the spirit of the book. Even though they’ve changed the time period from the 1950s to the 1980s, and taken other creative liberties necessary when translating from one artistic medium to another. While I can’t comment yet on the faithfulness to the book, the movie has inspired me to read my first King novel. So, I’ll be able to provide feedback on that front in the future.
There was something about this film that resonated with me, and has left it hooked in my brain like a prion. Even with films like Dunkirk and Logan having released this year, IT has stayed more closely with me. While the aforementioned titles, and others, have been great, there’s something about IT. I even anticipate that with Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I won’t forget this movie any time soon.
It’s probably the fact that we got a movie that presented a near-perfect blend of incredibly grounded human characters and fantastical horror monster. The gritty humanity of this film was often the most engaging, compelling you to care about the characters and their situation. I’m awaiting part 2 while a great deal of anticipation.
It gets a solid three thumbs up from me, with a hearty high-five.