IT (2017) is a blast from its first moments to its last. It’s as moving as it is freakishly frightening and thanks to a multitude of outstanding performances and consistently keen direction, I’m comfortable calling it an instant classic. I don’t want to spoil the experience by dissecting it too much, so I’m just going to use this space to celebrate a few of my favorite things about the film. I don’t think I need to hard sell this movie to you guys; anyone who enjoys these trauma-filled pages is likely to be already raring to see it. And really, has there ever been a better time for a movie about fighting an obnoxious clown who uses fear to divide and conquer the downtrodden?
THE PERFORMANCES. Nobody could ever eclipse TIM CURRY in my heart as Pennywise but BILL SKARSGARD certainly brings something of equal value to the table and there’s no law that says I can’t love both interpretations (torn between two killer clowns, feeling like a fool, loving both of you is breaking all the rules). SKARSGARD’s Pennywise has got a slippery, slobbering serpentine streak and he’s interestingly more child-like which makes him connect to and interact with the kids (and the bullies he mirrors) in new ways. All of the kids, parents and bullies are perfectly cast. In fact, I’d like to thank the casting director for somehow finding out what my bullies looked like and scouring the country for their exact doppelgangers-well done! I have to especially spotlight SOPHIA LILLIS as Beverly Marsh because she is phenomenal and apparently incapable of even one false note. Her Beverly is truly the heart and glue of the Losers Club just as she should be.
THE SCARES. I’ll never forget walking home from our local theater (at the Valley Forge Sheraton) after seeing THE THING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and feeling like I had to push my eyeballs back into my head. IT brought back that great feeling. I thought I knew exactly where each scare was going to end and kept consistently finding out I was dead wrong. It’s like putting a quarter in a gumball machine, expecting a lone gumball and watching the entire machine pour into your hand (and then, just when you think it’s over, your hand falls off). It’s really an eye-popping spectacle at times and many of the surreal goings-on have an off-kilter and uncanny edge to them almost like a hypnotic optical illusion. It brought me back to the early days of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series when you couldn’t trust anything that was happening and your sense of reality would actually be slightly weakened by the time you left the theater. No matter how familiar you are with STEPHEN KING’s novel or the previous miniseries, this IT knows how to pull the rug out from under you even if you are standing on wall-to-wall carpet.
THE SOUND. I don’t know much about the technical aspects of sound design but whoever is responsible for the evil children singing and laughing directly above my head and the music box chimes rising from the floorboards deserves either an award or a kick in the shins. Thank God I don’t partake in recreational drugs anymore. I feel like my movie theater was in cahoots! Before the movie even started they were flickering the lights and forced us to look at the flat image of an IT Snapchat ad for an ungodly amount of time and I’m pretty sure they were utilizing (highly illegal) subliminal messages to make me antsy and desire a Coke (maybe not). Anyway, the sound effects and score of this movie were ace and I’m thinking my theater is going to need an exorcism when this mad circus of a movie skips town.
THE SETTING. What a great job recreating the late eighties! Who do I kiss for not lazily placing a Rubik’s Cube on a coffee table and calling it a day? Who do I buy a beer for involving THE CULT, THE CURE and XTC in these twisted shenanigans? Who wants a hug for not overdoing it with wardrobe and dressing every bystander like CYNDI LAUPER? I really dig how the town of Derry is represented and how it feels lived in and real and like a place I’ve been to before. It really helps this movie feel like a full satisfying meal rather than the usual throwaway, fast food, horror stopgap.
THE VIBE. Early on, IT excellently establishes Derry’s dark and dirty undercurrent. As charming as the town may be on the surface, the anguish, alienation and dejection felt by its young residents feels thick as knee-high mud. Loved ones are lost without reason, parents are sleazy or overbearing monoliths, librarians are mean-spirited, pharmacists are shifty, cops are abusive, and I don’t even want to talk about the incomprehensibly grim things Mike (CHOSEN JACOBS) is expected to do to helpless sheep. Mike’s grandfather clarifies the horror of adulthood standing before these kids as they leave their childhood behind, it’s time to make a choice, are you going to be the butcher or the meat? Maybe you have to be a loser yourself to appreciate how on point IT’s depiction is of the pain and fear that comes with being an outsider and how accurately it displays the priceless joy of being an outsider who is lucky enough to meet kindred spirits. I am that loser! This movie reminds me so much of my (on-going) awkward years and yep, my eyes got misty on more than a few occasions. I could go on and on (and I’m sure I will in the years to come) about just how smitten I am with this film that juggles terrifying and touching with the greatest of ease but not today. It’s beautiful outside. I want to walk in the sun and I’ve got long-loved fellow weirdo friends I think I need to spend some time with.