Movie Review: ‘It’
“It” is one scary movie, yes, it is.
Coulrophobia, or a fear of clowns, is not all that unusual in children. A killer clown, known as Pennywise The Dancing Clown, takes advantage of that fire.
Pennywise isn’t the only scary thing in “It.” There are scary parents, scary teens and scary situations (jumping from a cliff into a quarry, youths throwing rocks at each other, and, scariest of all, an American Motors Pacer automobile).
What’s really scary in “It” are the phobias, insecurities and anger management problems among the teens. The tough teens bully the teen nerds, the self-described “The Losers Club.”
Typically, the teenagers, who appear of high school age since their are driving cars, bully the slightly younger teens. That, plus the teens’ dysfunctional family lives, and their competitive nature at school and in their social circle, informs the fears at the heart of “It.”
The movie’s title, “It” is the summation of those fears, or of whatever fear the teens may have, and project onto “It.”
“It,” which is based on the novel by Stephen King, shares a lot with the movie, “Stand By Me,” also based on a King novel. In this, director Andy Muschietti (director, “Mama,” 2013) borrows from the Steven Spielberg lexicon, where young people bond in the face of an apparent clueless parental generation. With “It,” however, there’s no Spielbergian happy ending for the youths, nor, especially, for their parents.
Muschietti (director, “Mama,” 2013) borrows from the Steven Spielberg lexicon, where young people bond in the face of an apparent clueless parental generation.
“It” is typified by fine cinematography (Chung-hoon Chung, director of photography, “Me, Earl And The Dying Girl,” 2015), especially in the non-horror, or scary, scenes. The camera pans, lingers, utilizes crane shots, and frames the teens as a group against a seemingly hostile world. Their neighborhood, their institutions, their own parents have failed these young people. In this, “It” is a metaphor for the many ills in our society.
“It” has several strong performances by the young cast. “It” is their breakout movie, much as it was for the young stars of “The Breakfast Club” (1985), “The Outsiders” (1983) and “Stand By Me” (1985).
Among the terrific young experienced actors are Jaeden Lieberher (Bill), resembling a young Dane DeHaan (yes, DeHaan’s career has advanced enough so that there can now be such an appellation); Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie), Bill’s younger brother; Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), an overweight history buff; Sophia Lillis (Beverly), looking like a young Molly Ringwald (a line of dialogue takes note of this), Finn Wolfhard (Richie), a wisecracker with glasses and longish hair; Wyatt Oleff (Stanley), a Jewish boy about to be Bar Mitzvahed; Chosen Jacobs (Mike), an African-American orphan; Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie), who has asthma, and Nicholas Hamilton (Henry), and Owen Teague (Patrick), leaders of a gang that bullies the younger teens.
Bill Skarsgård is truly terrifying as Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
The screenplay by Chase Palmer (feature theatrical screenplay debut), Cary Fukunaga (screenplay, “Beasts Of No Nation,” 2015) and Gary Dauberman (“Annabelle,” 2014), based on the 1986 novel by Stephen King (the novel was also made into a 1990 TV miniseries), is especially good at mixing jokey banter with horrific happenings. There’s also a sweetness in the friendships that develop between some of the teens.
The 1980s setting (Title cards announce the “October 1988” and “June 1989”) includes snippets of pop and rock songs from the decade (New Kids On The Block becomes a humorous device): The Cure, “Love Removal Machine”; XTC, “Dear God,” and Young MC, “Bust A Move; interiors (Kodak Carousel slide show in a garage), exteriors (“Batman” and “Lethal Weapon 2” on a double-bill, and “Nightmare On Elm Street 5,” at the town’s movie theater marquee) and vehicles (that Pacer and more).
Production design (Claude Paré, “Night At the Museum,” 2006); costuming (Janie Bryant, “The Last House On The Left,” 2009); music (Benjamin Wallfisch, “A Cure For Wellness,” 2016), and sound design adds to the jump scares.
“It” stumbles a bit. The screenplay’s back story about tragedy in the town of Derry, Maine, never really connects. A scene at the creepy mansion where a zombie-like character chases one of the teens is cheesy. The final confrontation between the youths and Pennywise degenerates into fiery, monster-laden CGI overkill (pun intended). At more than two hours, the film is about 15 minutes too long.
That said, “It” is a terrifying trip into teen-age angst. And that’s the scariest part of it all.
Then again, perhaps even scarier for Hollywood, had “It” been released prior to Labor Day during the summer movie season, it may have put the blockbuster into a season that turned out to be more of a bust.
“It,”MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for violence-horror, bloody images, and language; Genre: Adventure, Drama, Horror; Run time: 2 hrs., 15 mins.; Distributed by Warner Bros.
Credit Readers Anonymous:Stay to the very end of the credits, well after it states “It Chapter One” (Yes, “It Chapter Two” is in pre-production.) and hear Pennywise The Clown’s maniacal laugh. The film was lensed in Port Hope and other Ontario, Canada, locations.
Box Office,Sept. 15: “It” hit two weeks in a row, floating its blockbuster status at No. 1, with $60 million, $218.7 million, two weeks, scaring off “American Assassin,” opening at No. 2, with $14.8 million, one week, and “Mother!,” opening at No. 3 with $7.5 million, one week. “It” is the highest-grossing September release ever. 4. “Home Again” dropped two slots, with $5.3 million, $17.1 million, two weeks. 5. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” popped down two spots, $3.5 million, $70.3 million, five weeks. 6. “Annabelle: Creation” dropped two slots, with $2.6 million, $99.9 million, six weeks. 7. “Wind River” streamed down two places, $2.5 million, $29.1 million, seven weeks. 8. “Leap!” leapt down two places, $2.1 million, $18.6 million, four weeks. 9. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” spun down two spots, $1.8 million, $330.2 million, 11 weeks. 10. “Dunkirk” retreated two places, $1.3 million, $185.1 million, nine weeks.
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Three Popcorn Boxes Out Of Five Popcorn Boxes