IT: Chapter One (2017)
There is a scene transition in this movie, near the beginning, where one of the kids, Mike, is asked to kill a sheep with a bolt gun, as he works in his grandfather’s slaughterhouse. He can’t do it, his empathy for the animal too strong, so his grandfather takes over, killing the sheep. Another sheep is then herded into the killing booth, and the scene transitions over to the other kids exiting the class room for summer, in a way that syncs up to the sheep being herded into the booth. It is a subtle transition, but it says a bit about what’s in store.
IT is a story about childhood fear and the coming of age. Of the Stephen King novels I’ve read, IT is my favorite, and although I think the early 90s tv adaptation is OK, especially when it comes to Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, it can’t measure up to Andrés Muschietti’s 2017 version. Bill Skarsgård plays the clown to the hilt, giving us the definitive Pennywise.
It is simply my favorite film in the horror genre, and as of this writing, I’m eagerly awaiting the second chapter, hitting cinemas later this year.
Adapting a Stephen King book of about 1000 pages couldn’t have been easy. There are, of course, many things that are glossed over, and that is as it should be with an movie adaptation. But the all important element of fear is here in a big way. This is one of those few horror movies that deeply disturbed me, even though it didn’t scare me.
Pennywise feeds on fear, and in the book he is more ofte felt than seen. He manifests in various forms depending on what the kids are afraid of, and even the dancing clown is not his real form. I won’t go into details here, but let’s just say that there is a much deeper cosmology to the story, tying into the greater “King-verse”. Deeper elements of the story crosses over into other Stephen King stories, like Dreamcatcher, The Dark Tower, The Shining and I’m sure, several others.
One of the important changes done in this adaptation is that the film is set in the 80s, while the book is set in the 50s. As I was a kid in the 80s, I get all nostalgic about it, and I really feel for these kids. The young actors playing the kids really know their stuff, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing alot more from them in other productions. Sophia Lillis is amazing as Beverly Marsh, and the Finn Wolfhard we’ve already seen in two (and soon three) seasons of Stranger Things.
As mentioned, fear is an important theme in Stephen King’s IT, and the story doesn’t shy away from going all out on some very uncomfortable themes. In some ways, this makes the adults in the story, always out of touch and ignorant, even more terrifying than Pennywise. Beverly’s relationship with her father is especially uncomfortable as it strongly hints to sexual assault and even incest.
I highly recommend reading the book, of which this film is a great adaptation.