“It” (2017) succeeds on a number of levels; it’s both an excellent horror movie in its own right and a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s incredible 1986 novel. It’s rate it a 9 out of 10.
The movie works so well because it captures the book’s key juxtaposition of sweetness with horror. There is a gentle innocence about the story’s circle of adolescent protagonists, who remain kind and good in King’s story — despite facing an incredibly powerful monster while being alienated by adults who are shifty, feckless, or monstrous themselves. The screenwriters understand that juxtaposition, and successfully bring it to the screen. The kids here feel real, three-dimensional, quirky and damned likable. (My favorite was Eddie, the wisecracking hypochondriac, played by Jack Dylan Grazer.) It adds great tension to the story.
And the monster itself is truly terrific, thanks to an inspired, menacing portrayal by Bill Skarsgard and startling visual direction that nicely summons summons both coulrophobia and grotesque (yet sometimes subtle) body horror.
The film might suffer just a little from something its makers couldn’t avoid — so many of its basic story elements are overly familiar tropes. King wrote his novel more than 30 years ago. “Scary” clowns are now omnipresent in popular culture. (It’s something I’ll never understand. Clowns are mysteriously and positively irritating to me. They’re a lot like David Tennant before “Jessica Jones.”) We’ve also seen more than a few alienated adolescents, period settings and shape-shifting monsters that impersonate our worst fears, in everything from “The X-Files” to “Stranger Things” to … other Stephen King adaptations. We don’t want the filmmakers to neglect these key story components. That would ruin the movie. But they feel like overly common tropes in 2017.
Still, this was a great fright flick. I can’t wait for Part 2.