You’ll float too
IT is one of those books that’s infamous for being one of the scariest Stephen King has ever written. The dread, tension and sheer horror portrayed in the 800+ page book was always going to be tricky to adapt to the big screen in a 2 hour film. IT manages to recreate some of what makes the book so good but its reliance on CG effects does dilute some of the horror on-screen. It’s a lesson Hollywood fails to understand; when it comes to horror, less is more. Thankfully, IT boasts a plethora of excellent performances from its cast and ultimately this chemistry between the actors make this an enjoyable adaptation.
IT begins much like the book, with a fiendish opening showing little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) playing with his paper boat out in the rain. When the boat disappears into the sewers, Georgie finds the devious Pennywise The Clown (Bill Skarsgård) lurking in the darkness. After an eerily unpleasant exchange, the story shifts forward a little over a year later. It’s here that IT begins introducing us to each of the bullied children whom we spend most of our time with and who form a bond together, intent on fighting off the shape shifting demon that feeds on the children of their hometown Derry. Although IT does a good job with the script, mixing comedy and horror to good effect, a lack of character development and an overuse of CGI-heavy jump scares hold the film back from being the excellent horror flick it so easily could have been.
Horror aside, IT works best as a psychological thriller. Going into this one expecting to be genuinely scared is sure to leave you disappointed. There are a few stomach churning, unnerving scenes though and the excellent cinematography goes a long way to accentuate this. The lighting is top-notch too and with the right balance of shadow and colour its obvious there’s a real passion for this project to at least try to make some of the scenes scary. Seeing Pennywise’s unsettling grin during these scenes always leaves a sense of dread but the rate in which he shows up and scares the children does feel a bit overkill at times, meaning by the end of the film any horror associated with his presence all but evaporates.
The other problem IT suffers from is with developing each of the children that make up the bulk of the cast. Whilst it was never going to be an easy feat to try to develop the 8 children perfectly and in a way to satisfy everyone, it’s still a little disappointing that more time wasn’t given to flesh out the relationships and the bond each of the children hold to one another. Having said that, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) play their tortured characters really well and are by far the stand outs here, given more screen time and a more developed script than some of the other children. Richie (Finn Wolfhard), the joker of the group, executes his lines perfectly to, with enough conviction to lighten the mood in the areas that calls for it.
Overall, IT is a very good adaptation of the Stephen King book of the same name. Whilst it may not be as scary as some people were expecting, there’s still some unsettling, horrific scenes here. Technically the film is very nicely shot, with a great use of colour and composition throughout its 2 hour run time. Although some of the characters do suffer from a lack of development, the children that are focused on play their characters well and there’s a real chemistry between the cast that translates well to the big screen. Pennywise is creepy too and although he does appear a little too much, dissipating any horror that he built early on, IT is a great film and one that certainly handles the subject material well, even if it isn’t as scary as some people were hoping.