The Alien Critic Reviews...
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TAC Reviews...IT: Chapter One 

Date Posted: 13/10/19

 

Also known as simply IT, 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.

 

IT Poster

 

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.

 

TAC Reviews...IT: Chapter Two

Date Posted: 16/11/21

 

The sequel or second half of 2017’s IT (or IT Chapter One) and sees the grown-up Losers Club heading home to Derry, Maine to fulfil the blood oath they made as children because Pennywise has returned once more. IT Chapter Two was released in 2019 with the child actors from the first film appearing in flashbacks and new scenes. The adults that take over the characters are Jessica Chastain as Beverly “Bev” Marsh, James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough, Bill Hader as RichieTozier, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon, James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak, with Andy Bean as Stan Uris and Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom. Bill Skarsgard reprises the role of IT/Pennywise the Dancing Clown/Bob Grey. 

 

Teaser Poster

 

I have mentioned before that I enjoy writing novels, and short stories generally in the horror and action genre. However, despite this I must confess that I have never read any Stephen King novels but like many people who are horror fans I know a little bit about his work, most notably the Stephen King tropes, which include but are not limited to: his stories include a struggling writer who is possibly also an alcoholic, there are bullies what have no humanity in them whatsoever, usually a pretty girl in the mix, there will be religious zealots, something that is supposed to be scary is comical, and finally the endings of his stories are generally pretty bad. There are more but they are some of the most notable. As a result there is usually a consensus that read one book, read them all. Some of the most iconic horror films are based upon King’s novels which include The Shining and Misery. Yet there are far more films and miniseries which are laughably bad with some arguing that his novels just don’t translate very well into other forms of media. Personally I am more familiar with the film adaptations and would confidently say that Christine, The Shining, and Misery are amongst some of my favourite horror movies. I enjoyed IT Chapter One and was keen to see where the story would go with the sequel, so let’ take a look.

 

The film opens with a homosexual couple at the fair in Derry, Maine, who are attacked by a group of homophobic youths as they are on their way home. One of the two is brutally beaten and thrown in the river, as he struggles in the torrent, a clown on the bank offers a helping hand. His boyfriend races downstream to try and save him only to see him in the arms of a clown on the far side of the water. The clown then attacks the man, seemingly consuming his heart as red balloons billow from the bridge above.

 

Mike Hanlon, the only member of the Losers who remained in Derry, investigates the scene discovering one of the popped red balloons with a message written in blood on the bridge supports “Come Home”. Mike has spent his life researching IT and believes that it has once again returned to its feeding ground.

 

Making the calls to the rest of the Losers Club, Mike convinces them to return to town, with the exception of Stan who commits suicide out of fear of the creature they faced 27 years before. The rest of them gather at a Chinese restaurant and share jokes, stories and enjoy one another’s company. Mike eventually brings the conversation to the topic of why he has brought them back, but the others have forgotten almost everything about their encounter with the creature known as “IT”. Mike begins to jog their memories of that summer. At the end of the meal the fortune cookies reveal that IT knows Stan is dead, before bizarre creatures emerge from the cookies attacking the group. Not wanting to die Richie and Eddie decide to leave again, but Bev reveals that whilst under the influence of the Dead Lights in IT’s lair when she was a girl, she foresaw their deaths if they fail to kill IT once and for all. Despite her warning, the rest of the group with the exception of Bill start to leave despite Mike begging them to just hear him out. Bill returns to Mike’s home at the Derry Library and under the influence of a drug induced hallucination he witnesses as ceremony performed by Native Americans called Ritual of Chud that can imprison and stop the creature for good.

 

Meanwhile Pennywise lures a child away from a baseball game and mercilessly kills her. Bill and Mike reunite with the rest of the gang at their hotel, and Mike explains that they need items from their past to sacrifice in the ritual, and they must split up to find those totems.

 

Agreeing to find the artefacts and try the ritual, the gang separate to find their totems, with each one having their own encounters with IT, mostly in the guise of the killer clown Pennywise.

 

With the lives of the children of Derry in the balance, the Losers must overcome their ultimate fears, and take the fight to the monster that has been stalking the town for countless centuries before it kills them all...

 

One of the major strengths of this film are the actors that were brought in to replace the child stars from the first film, with all of them somewhat resembling their younger selves. Plus there are some incredibly talented people before the camera that all give strong performances as the adults struggling to face the monster that hunted them as children. James McAvoy is always a highlight and even after 27 years still struggles with the guilt over his little brother’s death at the hands of Pennywise.

 

Bill Skarsgard is still terrifying as Pennywise, and his performance is once again a joy to watch as the twisting monstrosity that hunts in Derry. The way he lures in his victims, and the children who hear him whispering to them has not gotten any less creepy. He steals the scene whenever he is on screen, and is obviously enjoying portraying the effortlessly sinister Pennywise.

 

However, the film struggles when the monster is not Skarsgard and sadly one of the tropes mentioned above rears its head during the film, namely bad CGI effects. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Bad CGI rips away any tension and in the case of one scene actually made me laugh out loud at how shoddy the effect looks. The scene involved Bev being attacked by a giant naked CGI old lady monster which is as lame as it sounds. The problem is that when an actress is portraying the woman her movements are unnerving, she twitches in the background or seems to zone out for no reason, and when there is just a voice in the darkness, it is scary, then this lumbering...thing...comes running at Bev and like I said it just made me laugh. So in one instant the tension that the rest of the sequence has been building up has been instantly lost due to a bad computer effect. This isn’t the only time in which the CGI breaks the tension, the creatures attacking the group at the restaurant are meant to be disturbing but are obviously poor CGHI creations, with the final sequence against Pennywise being another time when the effects are in full view, and whilst they are better they are still not great.

 

I am also not sure what tone the film is going for, because there are times in which things are creepy, and scary, with other times characters making jokes or making light of the situation they are in. The bully named Henry Bowers who was driven to murder his father by IT in 1986 has been institutionalised ever since, and breaks out to continue serving IT. He stabs Eddie in the cheek before he [Eddie] pulls the knife out and stabs Bowers with it, but then walks out of the bathroom with blood pouring down his face to tell the others that Bowers is in the bathroom. He doesn’t seem especially fazed by the fact he has just been stabbed nor that he may have just fatally stabbed someone else to death. This isn’t the only time that the tension the majority of the film is going for is broken with another being a sequence in which the group are attacked by Stan’s disembodied head that turns into a spider-like creature that is ripped straight from John Carpenter’s The Thing. The group are separated and whilst Pennywise is carving words into Ben’s stomach and about to cut his throat, the others are fighting the spider-thing which is again more comical than scary.

 

One of the other things that I struggle with for this instalment is the fact that none of the adults are armed in anyway. Children getting hold of a gun in the 1980s, that I imagine would have been some-what difficult, but even then they took the cattle-killing-gun-thing with them when they ventured to Pennywise’s lair. So why the chuffing hell haven’t any of the grown-up Losers thought to bring a gun with them?? There is nothing to assume that guns won’t work against the creature, and considering that you can buy guns at a shopping mall in America why don’t they go and buy some??

 

Plus what are the authorities doing about all these missing children? Why hasn’t anyone noticed that every 27 years the children of the town start inexplicably disappearing? Why is the town still functioning if a percentage of its young population get chomped every three decades? If the adults know that something is going on then why don’t they tell parents to watch their children more closely every 27th summer lest a monster try to carry them off? The guy that Pennywise kills after pulling him from the river is clearly in his twenties, so why was it okay to kill him, but normally IT favours children?? Was it because that guy had been wounded so couldn’t fight back?? Does IT therefore only target the weak?

 

There are so many unanswered questions which the film takes no time to answer, with one of the only ones being where IT came from. I won’t spoil that revelation but it is one that will just leave you shrugging your shoulders and going “okay, sure, why not”

 

Oh yeah, before I go on, I’ll just drop this...

 

 

One of the nagging things that was bugging me throughout the film was the ritual that Mike wants them to perform. In his hallucination Bill sees the container trapping the three lights (deadlights?) inside which seem to be the creature’s true form, but my question was: if IT was trapped in that container by the Native Americans who originally performed the ritual, then how did IT escape? Did someone let IT out? Was IT discovered when the town was being built and the vessel was disturbed?? The ending does explain this question but again the explanation just left me with this expression...

 

 

I also started to understand the bad ending trope that Stephen King’s stories are known for.

 

Okay, okay now let’s deal with the elephant in the room...

 

So the first film established that the Losers were about to drive Pennywise back because they stopped giving into their fear of him. Bill accepted that his brother was gone and the gang were able to escape with their lives. Strangely though, this film is about the adult Losers overcoming their fears so they can kill IT for good. But my question is: er...didn’t they know that already?? I don’t know about you if I had killed a terrifying clown-monster when I was barely old enough to be growing body hair, that is not the kind of thing that I would forget. I’m pretty sure I’d be using it as a chat up line or telling the story to anyone that would (and a few that wouldn’t) listen. Again a sequence when Bill is trying to save a boy in a mirror maze when Pennywise is hunting the child could have gone much smoother if Bill had told the kid to not be afraid. But he doesn’t. At the end of the film Eddie has the revelation that mocking the creature will cause it to literally shrink in size making it vulnerable. So the Losers proceed to shout at it, call it names, mock it, make fun of it, with it getting smaller and smaller until they literally rip its heart out killing it.

 

 

Yes you read that right.

 

They shout at it, mock it, call it names, basically attacking it’s self esteem until it is almost in a child-like form at which time they rip its heart out. So in effect they become IT’s bullies which enables them to stop it. So let me get this straight Stephen King, the titular monster of this novel, the terrifying monster clown Pennywise, a creature that you have said scares even you, can be defeated by taking the piss out of him???

 

......

 

I mean, what am I supposed to say to that??

 

Why has this thing been terrorizing Derry for centuries, if someone only has to tell it to fuck off, or take the piss out of its make-up or something to drive it away?? I guess you could say that you wouldn’t expect such a frightening monster to have such a weakness which is why no one has ever realised it before, but come on...you take the piss out of it...

 

 

Sorry Stephen King, I don’t buy it.

 

That is such a shit explanation for how it is defeated and does not give the audience the pay off that we have waited for. The second film is almost 3 hours long and in the end, being mean to IT is the way IT is ultimately killed.

 

Honestly what more is there to add??

 

The only thing is my Thumb rating, there is a lot to enjoy about the film with the performances from the main cast being one of them. The story of the Losers returning to slay the monster that terrorised them as children, fine, fair enough. Unfortunately, we spend most of the time getting back to where we were at the end of the first film with the Losers needing to overcome their fears to kill the monster. Sadly the ending is just straight up bad with the defeat of Pennywise being in no way satisfying and memorable for all the wrong reasons. I can’t give the film a Thumbs Down because it is not bad but nor can I justify a Thumbs Up because whilst it has its moments the ending leaves a bad taste in the mouth, as a result the best I can do is leave my Thumb Horizontal.

 

 

6/10 - The first one was better mainly because the Losers are a group of children fighting against a terrifying monster that is trying to kill them. As a group of adults Pennywise just isn’t as scary anymore and you might be asking yourself why in a country that sold an estimated 400 million guns in 2016 not one of the Losers thought to bring one to Derry.

 

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