Now that the Destiny review is out and I've managed to get some sleep in lieu of gaming time I recently went and watched a flick that gives me insomnia for an entirely different reason. IT is an amazing horror cinematic achievement worthy of all the praise it's receiving right now and guilty of very little horror tropes many in the genre succumb to. Overcoming the drawback of having a well known plot available over a variety of mediums, (book, movie, and TV) IT manages to stay relevant in modern horror and stay frightening throughout. The film is currently tracking at number 1 at the box office as it closes out its second week, and has set record highs for both the horror genre and September opening week box office. This review will have some content from the movie and I would like to take this time to remind everyone who hasn't seen IT that we will be discussing spoilers and feature disturbing imagery from the movie.
Since the plot is so well known I'm going to keeping the recaps of everything very minimal and more or less utilize plot points from everywhere during the movie in no particular order. I'll just be upfront with this one; there was a lot I liked about this movie and very little I found wrong. Something I noticed about this movie is it was a very technically correct horror film. To elaborate; this movie meets a lot of the staples in the modern horror film genre without being a blatant copy paste from other pictures, or over the top homage, whilst still utilizing certain cinematic techniques. There was a lot. My hats off to director Andrés Muschietti as well as the editorial and production teams. Several scenes were brilliant in hitting nearly every nail that comprises horrific disturbing imagery. Some examples I can remember off the top of my head and their correcting scenes with horror history examples;
- Walls bleeding (Beverly bathroom sequence - Amityville Horror).
- A scene going dark and lighting with a slow "strobe effect" and in one of the strobes a monster appears (slideshow sequence 2nd half - Shutter).
- The shot framed behind a character as he shines his flashlight, with the edges of the frame being blacked out, and the flashlight rapidly finds the villain (Stan sewers fear sequence - Last of Us, any zombie movie with flashlights).
- The villain contorted in an impossible way and "unwraps" (Pennywise/Eddie sequence - Ring).
- Blackened hands coming out from behind an object, usually a door (Mike meat house sequence - Signs).
I could go on (seriously this movie is FULL of staple disturbing imagery). When I began noticing these techniques being utilized I grew fearful. I have seen movies utilize disturbing imagery before. Something I feel much of the modern horror genre falls victim to it that it manages to get the content correct, the grim-dark themes and the horrific imagery, but it fails to be scary. Frightening. This goes quite a few ways. Movie that have a lot of jumpscares manage to leave me with a sense of stress to be suddenly frightened, but there's usually not to much disturbing content. Finally, the third mark of a the horror genre is gore, and this subject can become so not frightening and over the top that it nearly becomes a genre in its own. IT manages to nail all three of these things in excellent form. There's blood and gore, violence, disturbing images, disturbing themes, and jumpscares. It is a true horror movie that delivers on its frights.
The acting was fine, I wouldn't go so far as to say there were any Oscar winning performances, but the definite standouts I would say were Richie, Bill and Eddie. The rest were not bad by any means but I thinks these kids in particular managed to deliver the most convincing performances and in the humorous moments shine as well. As far as Pennywise goes, Bill Skarsgård is terrifying. The voice he uses is just close enough to clown but just off putting enough to give you a general sense of dread even considering how early you see him in the film. I have to be honest, when I saw Pennywise that early in the movie, I thought the jig was up save for maybe some jumpscares. Typically it's the fear of the villian and not getting a clear picture that will keep him frightening (a la Jeepers Creepers). Nope. Every scene Pennywise was in was a stress filled endeavor.
The final thing I appreciated was how true the film managed to stay to the mythos. For those that know, IT's powers work by turning whatever the victim believes into a reality, and IT uses this to manifest on the greatest fear of the victim in order to frighten them to eat them. So for example if you were to fight IT and believed that a gunshot would harm him, it would. The kids in this film were unaware of this fact (the believe in what your doing part not that IT turns into your biggest fear) however the film follows the rule and does it in a subtle way. When Beverly stabs Pennywise in the head with a regular metal pipe it works and injures him to a point of retreat. This is not because IT has some hidden weakness to common aluminum or lead, but because Bev believed it would work. When Ben kisses Beverly to awaken her from Pennywise' trance it works because he believes it will not because he suddenly figured out the one secret of the magic. Bill was very close to figuring out the actual power in the film. He kept telling himself that what he was seeing wasn't real and making apparition disappear to great effect, however he never quite pieced it together. The apparition were disappearing because they were illusions, they could very easily murder realistically enough, but it was because Bill truly believed his hypothesis that his method was working. The film doesn't spell it out for the viewer but for those that have read into Pennywise further it rewards the viewer, something I truly appreciated.
There wasn't a whole lot wrong with this film. Typically in horror movies I find inconsistency to be a huge complaint, but this didn't have too much, the only real thing I noticed as far as this goes was that Pennywise was able to know about the events in the well house when it came to Bill and Richie, but not know when Beverly and the rest of the group even entered. Another thing is the characters stay a little one dimensional, and it really cuts into the screen time on a couple of them. It's very obvious who's the witty one, whose the smart/brave/leader kid, etc. and they don't veer too far from that throughout the course of the film. Lastly, and this is a complaint about writing in general however IT is guilty, is that I don't like when characters make dumb horror movie survival decisions and the authors justifies it because he won't them all as kids. What I mean is, whenever Bill, Eddie and Richie go into the house together with the sole intent of fighting IT as a group, they immediately get split up and they're right next to each other. They whisper, and even though the music's dramatic in the scene you got to think it's a pretty quit abandoned house, there no need to not say, out loud, "Hey guys I stopped walking do you see that too or is it just me". The audience thinks well, they're kids, of course they won't make rational decisions in a stressful situation and the writer (yes you King) gets off scott-free.
If you haven't seen IT already then you need to. I think this deserves to be on everyone's DVD rack when it comes out. It's truly an example of how to make a good horror movie that a myriad of other films, in a genre that gets a bad rep for making the same mistakes over and over again, needs to take a look at. This movie is great. There's a ton of stuff going on in the background, subliminal imagery and the like, that give it a large amount of re-watch value. I'm happy to say that this is the first 5 star movie I've seen in a long time and what's more that it is in the horror genre, a rare feat lately. IT delivers in its mission to contribute a significant horror film while retreading a classic tale without compromising its integrity or forgetting its heart.