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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Movie Review: Stephen King’s “It”

Bill Skarsgård, above, played Pennywise the evil clown in the new adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “It”. GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR VIA CC BY-SA 2.0

So far, 2017 has been a year gifted with some of the most iconic and unfortunately, some of the most disappointing horror movies. Stellar films such as “Split,” “Get Out” and dare I say “A Cure for Wellness” graced the big screen, while other horror movies like the “The Ring” remake and “Bye Bye Man” flopped. But since Sept. 8, there has been a new film on the rise, and “It” has just made its big debut.

Before seeing the movie, I was already feeling pretty excited. I have read the original Stephen King novel “It” and the 1990’s miniseries adaptation has been a part of my Halloween ritual for years. Upon news of a new movie, I couldn’t help but fangirl.

The new adaptation, as different as it was from the book, drew a lot more plot and character development from the story than the miniseries did. A lot of information that was glazed over in the 1990 adaptation is somewhat recognized in the new movie, including more on the lives of “The Loser’s Club” and their bully.

The audience learns more about the family life of psychopathic bully Henry, played by Nicholas Hamilton. We are given dark insight into Beverly, portrayed by Sophia Lillis and the Loser Club’s lone girl, and her relationship with her father. We get more background on the pragmatic Stan, played by Wyatt Oleff, and his family life.

In the 1990 adaptation, all of this add-on character information is brushed over, and in some cases, completely avoided. However, it must be taken into consideration that at the time of release some of the material, especially in regards to Beverly’s abusive father and Henry’s aggressive streak, may have been a bit too sensitive for an early nineties audience.

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of the film aligning with the novel is the new rendition of the death of Georgie, portrayed by Jackson Robert Scott, the younger brother of Loser Club ringleader Bill, portrayed by Jaeden Lieberher. In the miniseries, Georgie’s disappearance is creepy, but not gruesome. For those that are familiar with Stephen King’s writing particularly in novels like “Dreamcatcher” it is known that King wouldn’t dare miss a chance to get gory.  Because of this, I am happy to admit that this newer rendition is, without a doubt, a fairer representation of the book’s description.

The dialogue and excellently executed punch lines deserve praise as well. The kids in this movie are half my age, but they pull jokes only angsty college students could appreciate.

What went wrong? The film fed into the trap of generic modern day horror: quick, blurry scenes, a few jump scares and too much CGI.

The most terrifying aspect of the miniseries’ rendition of Pennywise, the evil clown, was that he was creepy. The villain, played by Bill Skarsgård, didn’t twist limbs or open half of his face to expose a skull of teeth. Pennywise was simply a creepy clown that did creepy things. Special effects back then were minimal, and if there were any, it ensured that the money spent on the effects were well spent. Nowadays, it is too easy to make things stretch far beyond reality, which is why the new Pennywise is not that scary. Yes, he jumped out after long pauses. Yes, he grew limbs from his mouth and convulsed into the camera. But after seeing similar visual concepts in almost every cliche, 21st-century horror flick, the idea of some gymnast-clown that runs at you with a mouth of gaping teeth does not strike as nightmare-inducing.

Then there was the movie structure. Aside from the generic and unrealistic presentation of a horror icon, the entire layout of the new film was far from the original. Both in the book and in the 1990 rendition, the older and younger versions of the main characters are shown throughout the story. The book is built around the adult versions of the characters returning to Derry and regaining their memories of It, as well as their memories of being together. The contrast between the past and future played upon the novel’s themes of maturity, nostalgia and growing up.

The new movie, however, is split into two chapters a method of money-grabbing in the film industry, seen with blockbusters such as the “Twilight Saga,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Harry Potter” series. The first chapter only covers their young lives and the second chapter will continue with them as adults. This decision takes away from that powerful theme of aging, of the loss of one’s childhood, and the nostalgia of revisiting the past.

Generic traps and structure aside, “It” is worth the watch. Though not very terrifying, the film is a fun fall horror flick and it is great to see more of the main character’s background. For those who get squeamish easily, or for those faint of heart, I suggest dragging along a friend or two. In fact, in respects to Stephen King’s sensational novel, make it seven.

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