IT follows an outcast group of kids who fall prey to a clown that is able to manifest their worst nightmares. As children continue to go missing and no one does anything about it, the kids take it upon themselves to stop the being calling itself Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) before they become its next victims.
So many times we've looked at adaptations of not-so-old horror films (80's or newer) and scoffed at the absurdity of watching something that was well-executed the first time. When it comes to IT, some were excited about a fresh take on the story in a cinematic landscape as opposed to a TV miniseries, where others thought that filling Tim Curry's clown shoes was a hopeless endeavor. And I think it was possible for both those sentiments to be right and still say that It was one of the best horror movies of the year and beyond.
The IT miniseries is considered one of the better King adaptations, but it is still severely flawed, particularly in the writing and acting. In fact, I would argue that the kids in the movie outperformed everyone in the miniseries including the adults. The film succeeded in so many areas where the miniseries faltered, that the reliance on Skarsgard's performance to out-play Curry's was diluted.
This isn't to say that Skarsgard was bad, not at all. He did a fantastic job taking the character and making it his own. I would compare the transition to that of Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger in their interpretations of the Joker. They're both amazing, but they're both different. Ledger's Joker was incredible (a larger leap in skill than Skarsgard, admittedly), but it was also supported by one of the best comic book movies of all time.
This film did a fantastic job of adapting the first half of the story in a way that was cohesive and inclusive without being overwhelming or bloated (which is quite the task considering the 1.138-page novel). Sure, some content had to be cut and altered for runtime and storyline's sake, but I didn't feel anything was missed in the transition. We get every character's past and fears, and their personalities come out like we're watching Stand By Me or Sandlot. Speaking of which, this film drops a lot more comedic relief than one might expect, but this is again right in-line with the book.
I will say that the movie did fall into somewhat of a trap that befell the novel. Because King laid out so many characters that each have their own experiences, the story gets a bit repetitive. Beverley sees It, then Ben see It, then Mike sees It...eventually you start to feel dragged along by a friend telling you a story and is making sure to cover every detail. That is more-so how the novel makes you feel at times, but the film struggles with the repetitive nature of the kids' individual encounters with Pennywise. It doesn't hurt the story (in fact, it reinforces it) or make you feel the runtime (which was actually very smooth), but it does kill a bit of the fear factor. It and his menagerie of horrors never sneaks up on you. You see it coming every time. Now this is an incredibly minor criticism, but one I thought to mention as my one thought.
The film is scary and hilarious. I heard more people in the theater laugh than gasp in fright. But the film is properly segmented in its treatment of these two elements. It is a horror film first and foremost, but also a story on adolescence and friendship as part of its core. I was highly entertained, but not at the expense of ignoring my brain cells' cry for something intelligent. It was a fantastic remake, and I'm sure I speak for most movie-goers, all of you who helped it reach a huge $180 million international opening weekend, that we can't wait for Chapter 2!
Horror Qualifier: 10/10
Horror Quality: 8/10
Film Quality: 8/10