IT (2017)

Director: Andrés Muschietti
Screenplay: Cary Fukunaga, Chase Palmer, Gary Dauberman
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton 
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch

Stephen King's 'It' is one of the ten defining books of my life. The enjoyment it gave me when I first read it as a kid, plus on every subsequent re-read was immense. Its blend of coming of age and horror elements are done with great skill and passion for the themes and you can feel that from every page of the book. That special feeling when you read a book and the book starts to behave like your friend or guide to the unexpected is really one of a kind. It helped also that I lived (and still live) in the village with the surrounding not very different from the one described in the book. The woods, the river, the passages underneath the land surface and gullies and streams at the surface. Me and my friends were going into the woods, camping, making various stuff with the available material. It was great. But most importantly, I find King's work universal in terms of perfect capturing of the process of growing up, experiencing the first traces of death and rotten world before your eyes.
The first adaptation of 'It' came in the form of the mini series directed by Tommy Lee Wallace in 1990. I always held it dear to my heart, although it's evident that mini series have lots of problems (sloppy direction at the second part and downer ending being the most obvious ones). Tim Curry was wonderful as Pennywise and the kids were excellent too, but this story needed film format as much more fitting for its themes.
Enter Andrés Muschietti, the director of pretty weak horror movie 'Mama'. That was the main reason for my initial concern for the quality of the movie. But with every new promo material my expectations grew, and I am really happy to say that I was initially wrong. Very wrong!
First thing I need to say - the new kids are amazing - so spontaneous, so natural. Yes, the young cast from the mini series were very fitting in their roles, but the new ones are so great that I now cannot imagine anyone else in their parts. I completely believed them and trusted in their friendship, in front of my eyes were not actors but Bill, Bev, Stan, Ritchie, Mike, Eddie and Ben, the whole Losers Club. I cheered at their successes, I feared for them, I wanted them to win. Also, I shed a tear during a couple of really emotional scenes. 'It' alternates very successfully between hard hitting, tear inducing scenes (and manages to never feels cheap or manipulative in a bad way during these scenes) and the scenes of happiness and pure terror. All the supporting actors, both kids and adults are inhabiting their characters completely and without pulling back. And Bill Skarsgård as demonic Pennywise took differenth but very interesting path, playing the performance of hypnotiser who leads children to their death, with more creepiness and horror than humour, but still taking enough of both. The very good script helps actors a lot in that process.
New 'It' is wonderful coming of age horror-adventure. I am glad to say that Muschietti improved himself a great deal. He gave space to every character to develop, with all their inner torments, blending their inner horror with the horror of Derry perfectly. And that's one of the strenghts of King's book too, he managed to blend the real life horrors with supernatural horrors perfectly (in 'It', but also even more in 'Pet Sematary' novel for example) and Muschietti made it work on big screen very well. The boundaries between the ancient evil lurking inside the brain of the town and its (older) inhabitants are almost completely blurred in this case and it serves the themes of the movie perfectly. In 'It', the monster(s) is/are everywhere, in the sewer, in the family, in the school, the whole town is full of them and our heroes are realising the true nature of everpresent evil of the town and its inhabitants and deciding to fight it in all its shapes.
Horror scenes are realised with great skill. What mini series mostly failed to achieve (especially in the second part) and Muschietti did very effectively is evoking horror by setting an ordinary situation that suddenly morphs into its nightmarish version. That's an old trick but Muschietti made it work perfectly. And since the titular antagonist feeds on children's fears, there are some very creepy scenes of them confronting the demons of their tortured minds. Some people complained about the amount and quality of the jump scares, but I never felt that they are out of place or wrongly used. These scenes are shown from the point of view of the main characters, and considering that monster "hypnotises" them in these moments, creating the space for its attack, these scenes always felt justified and in place. Also some other horror scenes, especially the ones near the end showing the psychological and literal battle between It and the kids are perfectly realised. CGI is smartly used (again especially near the end of the movie), never overused and it adds to instead of taking out of the final experience.
Scenography is great (with house of It being the most impressive) and gives a movie another layer of creepiness or 80's style adventure look, depending on the situation. Cinematography is another strenght of the movie. It's done by Chung-hoon Chung, best known as the director of photography for Chan-wook Park's movies. Many of the horror scenes are set during the bright day, which is a good thing that returns us to the 70's and 80's, when the great masters of horror filmed many very effective horror scenes during the day. Also, when it comes to the look of the movie, the period of the late eighties (1988 and 1989) are excellently reconstructed. The film also have perfect sense of time and space and plays wisely with all its visual and verbal elements. Visual elemets are fused with passing time and verbal parts are used in smaller but effective amounts. We have movie marquees for 'Batman', fifth part of 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', 'Lethal Weapon 2', posters for 'Beetlejuice' and 'Gremlins' and a picture of monster car on Eddie's T-shirt (possible reference to 1983 John Carpenter's movie adapted from Stephen King's novel). Also at one point Richie says, referring to Bev: "Who invited Molly Ringwald into the group?” (one of the funniest lines from the movie), which is of course a reference to one of the main stars of John Hughes movies from the same era. Also, the music by various bands is cleverly used (with New Kids on the Block being very funny and nice touch :) ). Original score by Benjamin Wallfisch alternates between very creepy and John Williams-like, adding layers of very effective horror and 80's nostalgia.
One thing that I would have loved to see more was bigger hints at cosmic origin of It's evil. There are couple of hints near the end of the movie, but I would like to see more of that, because it gives It the wider implications and makes its evil more Lovecraftian - that was another strenght of King's book, making It more dangerous and universal. Also, as a part of that mythology, the turtle Maturin is referenced couple of times in the movie, but not much. I would like to see more of that. All that is very well explained in the 'Ritual of Chüd' scene in the book (which was one of the scenes initially planned for the movie, but never filmed because of the budgetary reasons). It would be great to see Ritual of Chüd and other similar scenes in the second part of the movie, in the form of flashbacks. Also, since the director's cut on DVD and Blu-Ray will be 15 minues longer, there is a strong possibillity for including more scenes of It's background (a background that does not destroy the character, which was often the case in similar situations, but enriches it). All in all, the goods that this movie delivers are too big so I don't consider this a big problem (and I am certainly not one of those "the movie must be faithful to the book" type of people, on the contrary), only suggesting a thing that can (and probably will be) more explored.
'It' is an amazing experience. I watched it with a friend at the cinema. Apart from five or six us twenty- and thirty-somethings, the cinema was full of kids and teenagers. They obviously liked the movie a lot (Bev got the biggest applause for her stabbing It in the head). When the movie was over, one kid stood up and said very loud, so that everybody can hear him: "This is the best horror movie I ever saw!" While that's not true in my case, I can certainly understand where he is coming from. 'It' is one of the best horror movies of the recent years and the success it enjoys is completely justified by its qualities. Now we are waiting for director's cut DVD and Blu-Ray (and of course the second part of the movie)!

"They're gazebos mom! They're bullshit!"
Eddie Kaspbrak

4.5 / 5