Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn may have been the most popular girls’ costumes this past Halloween, but Pennywise the clown from It was easily the hottest costume with boys in these parts. In fact, there were more spooky clowns with red balloons at my daughter’s grade school Halloween parade this year than there were Jedi knights, and that’s really saying something in a town with a Walt Disney elementary school.
I love a fun, pop culture moment just as much as the next guy, but I have to admit that after finally seeing It following months of non-stop hype in film geek circles and beyond – Warner Brothers even sent out DVD screeners to Academy members last month! – I just don’t get the appeal.
Sure, the cast of mostly unknown kids is awesome, and the film looks great, and has a killer soundtrack, but other than that, practically everything in It has been done before in better, scarier movies. Now, in all fairness, Stephen King’s original novel It was published in 1986, so, obviously the book and popular mini-series adaptation in the 1990s had a huge influence on such subsequent films and TV series as Stranger Things, Child’s Play and even the Babadook, so, it’s hard to know for sure which came first in some instances. But the fact that so many things in It seem derivative makes the entire venture feel kind of played out and, dare I say it, boring. And unless you have a serious clown phobia, even the spookiest scenes with the murderous Pennywise are far too campy and goofy to be truly terrifying. So, all you’re really left with is a half-baked story about a killer clown from hell who preys upon the worst fears and phobias of his child victims. Yawn.
Set in the creepy fictional burg of Derry, Maine – a town King references in other works like The Body, Pet Sematary and The Tommyknockers – in the summer of 1988, It follows the adventures of a gang of geeky kids who call themselves The Losers Club. Trying to unravel the disappearance of their friend Bill’s (Midnight Special’s Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie (newcomer Jackson Robert Scott) after he goes missing in the sewers beneath the town one summer, the Losers soon find themselves ensnared in the supernatural thrall of Georgie’s grease-paint-adorned abductor, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).
Hoping to add the Losers to his centuries-old collection of missing and murdered children, Pennywise does his best to scare the kids to death (literally!) but things take an unexpected turn when the gang proves to be far more resilient than he expected.
And though that sounds like a cool set-up for a horror film, spooky set-ups and over-the-top gore are pretty much all It has to offer. Especially in the third act, where viewers hoping for answers, twists, and a more nuanced backstory are left with nothing but more questions. I don’t need to know everything, but It’s casual disregard for the rules – is this all a dream or is it real? – in a genre that lives or dies by them is maddening in the extreme.
Directed by Mamá helmer Andy Muschietti from a script by Chase Palmer, Annabelle: Creation’s Gary Dauberman and True Detective wunderkind Cary Fukunaga, It’s one big selling point is a truly stellar supporting turn from a young Amy Adams lookalike named Sophia Lillis as the only girl in the Losers gang. She’s amazing, and every time Lillis is onscreen It sucks way less. So, you go girl!
Now playing on select Virgin Atlantic, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, and Air Canada flights worldwide, It is also available for pre-order as a digital download at iTunes and Google Play.