It: Chapter 1
What was your biggest fear when you were a kid? I had a few and It was one of them. Imagine an entity that could transform into exactly what you feared of and comes chasing after you like its a game for it and then just eats you with its sharp teeth. That’s what It is — a shapeshifting clown that feeds on human fear and flesh. Directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama) and screenwritten by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) and Gary Dauberman (Annabelle: Creation), It is based on Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel about a group of preteen misfits named “The Losers Club” who are forced to battle against “It” (played by Bill Skarsgård) who’s responsible for the disappearance of dozens of children in the town of Derry and has been terrorising them one by one in the form of their greatest personal fears.
Right off the bat I’m going to say that Bill Skarsgård’s performance as the titular Pennywise the Dancing Clown is not as compelling, colourfully expressive and clown-y as Tim Curry’s in the 1990 adaptation. Skarsgard’s version is too obviously sinister with a constant evil stare and grin on his face. It makes Its bad intentions and probably unintentionally hilarious CGI tricks a bit predictable. The film also somewhat feels less dark and psychological than the 1990 adaptation. But to be fair as well, Skarsgard also didn’t have as much dialogue and screen time to play with as Curry did.
Despite those few issues, the film is still a lot of fun to watch and it is indeed a much needed update with superior production value, beautiful cinematography by Chung Chung Hoon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Stoker), haunting scores by Benjamin Wallfisch (Annabelle: Creation, Hidden Figures) better pacing and believable, non-cheesy dialogues backed by a fantastic performance by the preteen actors. Also, by focusing only on the point of view of the kids, the narratives is straightforward and easier to digest than the 1990 adaptation’s non-linear approach where it alternates between two time periods just like in the novel.
The film sets the tone right at the beginning with a shockingly gruesome opening and then with the foul-mouthed preteens. Apart from playful scares, the film is also a fun, relatable, coming-of-age adventure-like drama that reminds me of Stand By Me (1986), which is also based on a Stephen King novel. I would’ve liked it more if the loose ends are tied up (like does anyone go to jail if they killed someone?) and the phenomenons are at least vaguely explained (like what is Pennywise and his powers exactly?) but the film does reveal itself to be only the first chapter of a planned duology so hopefully there’d a be followup on all of this in the sequel.
Post-credit scene: There isn’t one.
What I would’ve named the film: “Goosebumps: Magic Flesh-eating Sewer Clown”
Malaysian censorship: Kind of odd, really. F-bombs weren’t muted but some other words were. Shots of the clown biting victims and minors (both male and female) in underwear weren’t cut but a kissing scene was. It’s like, “Laki dan gadis yang bersekolah boleh kata fuck, bogel bersama-sama dan lompat ke dalam kolam dari tebing tinggi, asalkan tak cium.” Come on, it’s already rated 18.
Verdict: Although it fails to replace the much more memorable, scary clown of the 1990 adaptation, this much needed updated adaptation is still a very fun, scary adventure.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Supernatural horror, adventure, drama
Running Time: 135 minutes
Director: Andres Muschietti
Screenwriters: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff
Malaysia Release Date: 7 September 2017
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: New Line Cinema, Lin Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment, KatzSmith Productions