Date Posted: 13/10/19
Also known as IT Chapter One, this film was released in 2017 and is based upon the Stephen King novel of the same name published in 1986. Jaeden Lieberher stars as Bill Denbrough, with Bill Skarsgård starring as Pennywise, the Dancing Clown, respectively. Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, and Jackson Robert Scott are all featured in supporting roles. The film is the second adaptation of the novel after the 1990 miniseries.
This was one of those films that I meant to get round to seeing when it was in the cinema but for one reason or another, I didn’t get the time. Fortunately it appeared recently on Netflix or Amazon Prime, I forget which and can’t be bothered to check, and as I was in the mood for a good dose of horror decided to check it out.
I am somewhat familiar with the 1990 miniseries as the Nostalgia Critic did a review of that so I know the gist of what happens but was interested in seeing this new version considering the hype it got up to release.
Without further ado lets jump in...
The film opens in October 1988 in Derry, Maine. Bill Denbrough is making a paper boat for his six year old brother Georgie. After finishing the boat Georgie eagerly heads out into the pouring rain to sail it down the rain soaked road, it gets ahead of him and is washed down a storm drain. Whilst trying to retrieve it Georgie meets Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Pennywise entices Georgie to come closer, and attacks him biting his arm off and dragging him into the drain whilst an old woman in a nearby house seemingly watches what happens but does nothing to help.
The following summer Bill is still obsessed with finding his little brother and tries to convince his parents that if Georgie was washed into the storm drain then he may just be lost in the sewers. But they are unconvinced and tell Bill his brother is dead. Bill convinces his friends Richie (Wolfhard), Eddie (Grazer) and Stanley (Oleff) to help him go to an area of marshy wasteland known as the Barrens to look for Georgie. The three run afoul of the local bully Henry Bowers (Hamilton) and his gang who have been leaving Bill alone since his brother disappeared but have decided that the time is right to torment him again. New kid in school Ben (Taylor) learns that the town has been plagued by missing persons and unexplained tragedies for centuries, with the disappearances happening every 27 years. On his way out of school he bumps into Beverly (Lillis) who warns him that Bowers and his gang are intending to jump him as he tries to leave school.
Despite his efforts to evade them Ben is cornered by Bowers who starts carving his name onto Ben’s stomach when an old couple drive by but do nothing to help. Ben is able to get away and flees down a river when he encounters Bill and the others. Fearing Bowers and his gang, they hide after finding a shoe of a missing girl in the Barrens. A member of Bowers’ gang, Patrick heads into the sewer believe that is where Ben is hiding only to be attacked by Pennywise.
The children all see Pennywise around the town and eventually come to the realisation that he may have been around for centuries. He may also be the reason why so many children go missing. Ben tells them that the cycle seems to be a feeding pattern with It appearing every 27 years and then disappearing once more as It goes into a hibernation like state. If they can prevent it from feeding them It might starve during It’s next hibernation. Pennywise the Clown is simply an appearance that the entity takes on in order to frighten them. The gang is convinced to go to creepy house that connects to the sewers that It uses to get around to confront the monster.
Their attempt almost ends in tragedy and after their one disastrous attempt to stop It the children splinter apart. Weeks pass as they avoid one another but when It comes for one of them, the others realise that if they are going to see their friend again then they need to venture into the sewers to find and destroy It once and for all...
Okay so going into this film I knew that it was effectively a two-part story, the first part involves the children in Derry, and the second sees the adults returning once they learn that their work is not yet finished.
I might as well drop this because I can’t talk about what I want to without Spoilers so...
I was in the mood for a good dose of horror and sadly this film didn’t really scratch that itch, I enjoyed Pennywise, because he could be both funny and flip to creepy in a second. My biggest problem was that he didn’t just kill the children already. We see him killing Georgie and Patrick but he just follows the kids around scaring them whilst obviously not doing anything to them beyond scaring them. If the film established that they tasted better the more afraid they were or something then fair enough, but I was starting to wonder why he didn’t just kill them already.
I also liked the way Hamilton portrayed the bully Henry Bowers. I know that Stephen King books follow certain tropes and the uncaring, unemotional, barely human bully features time and time again. The line in which Henry tells Bill that he’s cut him some slack because of his brother served to humanise him far more than the two-dimensional bullies that King normally writes about. Henry’s home life, and the fact that he is basically bullied by his Cop father, also shows why he acts out in the way he does. He feels powerless so he makes others feel the same way by targeting them. It creates an interesting sub-plot in which Pennywise seeks to corrupt him and twist him to insanity by encouraging him to reclaim his power by turning on his own father. Honestly the sequence with Pennywise and Henry were amongst the best in the film as you watch the clown encourage him to kill his tormentor by giving him the means to do it.
The child actors are all fine, and generally the film is well acted. But everything that happens here basically serves as filler. I guess if you didn’t know that the second film follows the adults as they return to deal with Pennywise once again then there would have been more tension, but I know who makes it out alive, spoiler alert: it’s all of them.
Plus Pennywise is basically beaten by the power of friendship...
Beverly is taken by the Clown so Bill and the others (the Losers Club) head down into the sewer to confront him and rescue their friend. Beverly meanwhile declares that she is no longer afraid of the clown so Pennywise hypnotises her or something, her body floats in the air, amongst dozens of other children. Presumably the ones previously captured. Once down in the sewer the Losers manage to revive Beverly and are attacked by the clown. Pennywise grabs Bill and tells the others if they leave Bill to be fed upon then the clown will leave the rest of them alone.
In possibly my favourite moment of the film Richie has a go at Bill telling him that the situation is all his fault, that they should leave him, and then proceeds to smack Pennywise with a baseball bat. The clown or It changes its appearances to show each one’s fears as they all pile in and are able to force it to retreat deeper into the sewer. They don’t go after It believing that it will now starve as It slumbers. The people floating around them start to sink to the floor...but they are not mentioned again, nor are they revived so are they dead?? Beverly was saved from floating so were the others?? The film doesn’t elaborate and the Losers just leave without a second glance back at the people who may or may not be mid-hibernation snacks for It.
One of the themes of the film is that the townsfolk know what is happening and make no attempt to stop it. The old lady who sees Georgie getting attacked to the old couple that drive past when Ben is getting cut by Henry, but I don’t really understand why. If the creature can be defeated by simply being unafraid of it then why aren’t people advised to simply laugh if they see something frightening and they’ll be fine??
If so many people are going missing then why don’t the children go to the nearest city to get more police in?? Especially after they find Pennywise’s lair which may or may not contain loads of bodies or comatose children?? They watched It disappear down a tunnel so why not come back with a few petrol bombs to throw down there just to make sure that It is dead??
I was left with so many unanswered questions which perhaps the book answered but the film sadly didn’t.
When he is on screen Pennywise is very entertaining walking the line between comedy and creepy, his interactions with the children are also atmospheric, as well as being terrifying to them. Sadly he wasn’t terrifying to me. I was entertained, but not scared, which for a horror film is a pretty major flaw.
All in all IT was a decent enough film, I didn’t find it scary but maybe people who are afraid of clowns would. Plus I guess asking a bunch of kids to return to a sewer with more firepower than Rambo might have been asking too much.
The sequel boasts the likes of James McAvoy as the adult Bill with Jessica Chastain as Beverly with Bill Skarsgård reprising the role of Pennywise. I doubt I’ll make a point of going to see IT Chapter Two in the cinema but I will definitely check it out when it pops up on Netflix or Prime.
I was entertained enough to keep watching and am interested to see where the sequel will go, so I’ll give the film a Thumbs Up. Perhaps if I knew nothing about the film going into it, I would have enjoyed it more than I did, so if you are going into this fresh then ignore all the spoilers above and check it out.
7/10 – The film wasn’t scary to me, and Pennywise didn’t get enough screen time. However, I still enjoyed it and would highly recommend it to anyone afraid of clowns because I’m willing to bet you’d find it truly terrifying.