Bill Skarsgard in It

Movie Review: IT (2017) *A Reasonable Critic Review*

Bill Skarsgard in It

Stephen King’s epic fantasies The Dark Tower and The Stand constitute his best work, but when it comes to pure horror, IT is his magnum opus. The novel is a monster of a book, the most intricate, powerful, engaging horror tale he ever wrote. It concerns a group of misfit 1950s children who discover that an entity from another dimension has come out of hibernation and is terrorizing the denizens of their small Maine community. The demon feeds on fear by killing people, especially children. IT frequently takes on the form of a circus clown named Pennywise, but its scariest attribute is its ability to embody whatever its victims fear the most. King’s novel leapfrogs between the heroes’ past and present, as they confront IT as children, then later as adults

The new movie, the first part of a projected two-part adaptation, focuses on the parts of the novel that chronicle the characters as kids. Other than the setting, which has been updated to the 1980s, it’s a lovingly faithful adaptation, and the act of paring the story down into two hours has turned it into something akin to a fable: a simple, meaningful tale about overcoming your fears by facing them head-on. After a gruesome opener, which depicts the horrible murder of a small child, there is not a lot of graphic violence in the movie. In fact, the terrors that dog the young protagonists are often kind of goofy: the germaphobe sees a leper, for example, while another kid is tormented by a distorted figure from a creepy abstract painting.

Bill Skarsgard in IT
Audiences unfamiliar with the book can be forgiven if they think the clown is the true form of IT, instead of a manifestation of an inter-dimensional entity. While IT’s true nature will no doubt be addressed in part two, in this movie IT is an abstraction, a stand-in for the idea of fear.

Human beings do the most disturbing things in this movie. And when, in the course of standing up to IT, the child heroes are motivated to stand up to the real-life sources of fear in their lives—the psychopathic bully with the knife; the evil, incestuous father—it’s the most satisfying part of the film, even more satisfying than the climax. IT is an overall good-spirited horror movie. It’s so good-spirited that some fans of the genre
might be ticked off. But this humble Reasonable Critic appreciated the paradox.

Now for the very, very bad news. You would not know that IT was King’s horror masterpiece from this movie. Not even close. IT was made with love, no question, but it was made with love by a director with myopic vision, who only knows how to do horror. Whenever the clown is on-screen, being played to dark perfection by Bill Skarsgard, and whenever supernatural evils are occurring, the director, Andy Muschietti, is on sure footing. With most horror movies that would mean success, but the novel IT is as much a coming of age tale like Stand By Me as it is a horror story. It needed a director like Frank Darabont to bring it to life; when it comes to masterful King adaptations he’s going three for three right now, and I can only imagine his IT. As it stands, IT is flat, limited, and clichéd. The worst thing about the movie is that the kids are not remotely convincing. Not because the young actors give bad performances—in fact they are extremely likable—but because the script, by Muschietti, reduces them to types.

Bill Skaarsgard in It

As I left the theater, I knew that IT would be a smash. The audience reaction was just too positive and intense. It’s hard to argue with success, I was just expecting more.

*The Reasonable Critic is the Lord of the Forums at Killing Time and occasional guest columnists. He was good enough to review this cultural phenomenon since I have a no-joke clown phobia.  Thanks be to, RC!

IT Poster

16 thoughts on “Movie Review: IT (2017) *A Reasonable Critic Review*”

  1. Good to hear a voice of reason. Some reviewers were praising a pretty decent horror film too highly in my view. Still, they played the ending right as the biggest letdown is the ridiculous denouement of original novel and 90s TV adaptation. King is a genius though and this is a very watchable adaptation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. King has trouble wrapping up his stories in satisfying ways. It might be because he writes without outlines and rarely knows where his plots will end up. But I can’t peer into his imaginative process, so I don’t really know. I try to think of his books as British mystery tours from the old days, and enjoy the scenery and not worry too much about the destinations.

      This is a very overrated movie, but it left me in a good mood, ready to face my own fears. So the director clearly did something right. I can see revisiting the film every few Halloween’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really want to see this movie, but I have an aversion to seeing horror movies in the cinema. When I saw that you described the things they endure as ‘goofy’, I thought, “Hey, maybe this won’t be so bad.”…
    …just watched the trailers and clips and nope, nope, NOPE 😛 One I’ll be waiting for to be released on DVD, I think!
    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just be prepared for an opening sequence with a gruesome act of violence. I could see people unaccustomed to the genre being really put off. But in general this really is a surprisingly good natured film. It’s a horror movie to be sure, with a clown in a sewer and a subplot about incest, but I don’t think too many people will walk out traumatized.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Stranger Things is much better directed. It wouldn’t hold a candle to a truly worthy IT adaptation, because Stranger Things is a pastiche and IT is the real deal, one of the iconic stories Stranger Things takes inspiration from. But yeah, Strangr Things is better than IT the movie, at least to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. A very good review from a different perspective. Personally, I loved IT (and I usually don’t like horror movies). Maybe because I wasn’t expecting much from this movies that I liked it so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate the compliment about the review. It sounds like you have not read the book. I know it’s a 1000+ pager, but I always thought it was THE horror novel for non-horror fans. That’s if non-horror fans can get past all the violence and gore.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, you are correct. I never did read the book. However, with some time from now until Chapter 2 comes out, I might read the book and make the comparison between book and film.


    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. This review was written by a guest columnist actually who was kind enough to review IT because I have a I-kid-you-not clown phobia. Lol so I will pass on your praise, but I write 99.9% of the things on the site. It’s so weird, I just checked out your blog and I am currently engaged in a mouse war here. I have traps strategically placed all over the place baited with peanut butter and somehow the little bastards manage to get it all off there half the time without setting the trap off. How that’s possible when I set it off on myself just setting it escapes me, but best case is you get corpse removal duty, so your piece was very timely lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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