Sunday, 10 September 2017

Film Review: It


Pennywise is back and he ain't clowing around this time.

Based on Stephen King’s popular novel of the same name, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of It sees the town of Derry, Maine terrorised by a demonic clown called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). With a growing number of children strangely missing, unravelling the mystery of their disappearance falls to a group of young outsiders who call themselves the Losers Club.

If you’re expecting to be scared silly, It might not be what you’re looking for. Truth is, it’s more of an adventure than a straightforward horror, with its glossy Amblin vibe more closely matched with Netflix’s recent nostalgia fest Stranger Things or any of the classic 80s films that inspired it. There is still a dark edge to proceedings, but nothing here scared me in the same way The Conjuring 2 or The Witch did.

The genuine earnestness and sincerity that is conveyed through its ensemble cast is more akin to JJ Abrams’ Super 8 or Stand By Me. Though there are plenty of scares and gallons of gooey gore – one scene set in a bathroom is legitimately creepy and another extended sequence in a haunted house is filled with fright – It straddles both laughs and scares in equal measure.

The line between gruesome and goofy is one that gets increasingly blurred as the film goes on, with the third act in particular increasingly comical as Pennywise darts back and forth like a demented Ronald McDonald. The camerawork and editing here is shaky and disorienting to say the least, as limbs spin and spiral to the point that it is genuinely hard to follow what is happening.

The film is definitely more at ease with itself when the horror takes a backseat and the action focuses in on its magnetic cast of dynamic youngsters. There is something about them that meshes so well, giving It a warmth and energy that is hard to replicate or manufacture. 

Finn Wolfhard’s character is the undoubted standout – his cocksure and bespectacled Ritchie provides comic relief by the barrowful – whilst Sophia Lillis makes for a compelling Sissy Spacek meets Molly Ringwald heroine. Her sweet romance with Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is the beating heart of this film. 

There are few weak links, namely Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley, but it is refreshing for a film to be so wholeheartedly committed to its focus on a younger cast. Not once does It cut away to an authority figure or adult character; this is all about the kids and it is because of their brilliance that the film is worth checking out.

It is an uncommon occurrence in that it is a big-budget studio horror that is doesn’t play it too safe; it is very gory in parts, has lots of swearing and the themes are heavy, especially surrounding Lillis’ character. 

The Verdict: 7/10


It isn’t perfect – it is a little long and the jumps are signposted pretty clearly – but it has a little bit of something for everyone, whether that’s gooey monsters, young romance or the slavish period setting.

It is in cinemas across Australia now.

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