Screenwriter (based on the novel by
all the perceptive coming-of-age-stories Stephen King has written,
few are ridden with a more nonsensical horror plot than "It". Or to
put it another way: Not many of King's horror stories have a weaker
link between the story's non-horror elements and the actual
horror-elements. Still, "It" is the first King story to be adapted
to a visual medium twice. It wasn't really necessary (pun intended).
Despite my initial qualms about the project's mere existence, I was
prepared to view it with fresh eyes. The group of lead-characters,
who all have problems with bullying and/or their home-life in one
way or another, is well-conceived and acted. You immediately relate
with them, or at least some of their daily challenges.
Unfortunately, their nemeses, either it be the school's bullies or
various parents, are stereotyped and overdone, giving the film a
B-movie feel from the get-go. Was that done intentionally as a
homage to the lesser Stephen King adaptations of the 1980s and
1990s? I don't know, but if so, what was the purpose of a remake of
The coming-of-age story is then intertwined with the kids'
increasingly frequent encounters with "It" aka Pennywise, a
clown-like, chameleonic, child-eating monster operating in the
town's sewer system. Bill Skarsgård plays the clown, which was first
given a face by the often hilarious Tim Curry in the 1990 version,
and I'm sure Skarsgård had quite a bit of fun with the part. The
filmmakers really don't, however, because they never seem to be able
to give him screentime without having to resort to jump-scares,
which is a big disappointment. Although the thematic foundation for
Pennywise's existence is and has always been rather meagre, director
Andy Muschietti should at least have pretended to have enough
confidence in Pennywise to let him stand on his own. As it is, every
single encounter with Pennywise ends with massive use of sudden
sound- and camera-effects – also known as jump-scares. It's a cheap,
cowardly and ultimately ineffective horror trick which will kill the
suspense (and possibly offend) anyone who is able to identify it.
The one exception is the opening sequence, in which we and little
Georgie meet It for the first time. Here, Muschetti takes his time
to actually build suspense around Pennywise and in the scene. It's
by far the film's most effective horror element. Unfortunately, it's
all downhill from there.