It has been way too many years since I’ve read the novel It. I’m going to say somewhere in the ballpark of 20 years ago.  I remember loving the book, I just don’t remember too much about it.  My memories are really from the It miniseries which I always thought was … okay. That miniseries was broken up into two parts – one part focusing on the children (including Jonathan Brandis and Seth Green) and one part on the children all grown up (including John Ritter and Annette O’Toole). The kids part was actually decent but the second part with the adults sucked. Really the miniseries is effective because of Tim Curry’s role as Pennywise. Curry was scary as hell. You didn’t need a crazy looking clown with CGI to be effective. Putting Tim Curry in a clown outfit was enough to scare the bejesus out of me.  He still does.

I thought the look of this new It film was pretty good. They did a damn good job marketing this movie. I was very happy when the critics came back with positive reviews and even more happy that audiences really liked it. Word of mouth on It was great. I enjoyed it…or is it I enjoyed It? As it has been years since I’ve read the book I’m not as enslaved to it as my wife is – she did not enjoy the film at all.

The film moves up the time frame from the book and removes the adult section. This film features only the kids and takes place in the very late eighties. The premise is very simple. There’s a killer on the loose who feeds on children. More importantly is if the child is scared then eating those children become even more delicious. Or is it that the entity has more power when kids are scared? I dunno. Anyway the entity looks like a circus clown. A circus clown named Pennywise that is terrifying as hell.

The film starts off revolving around 4 friends aged…I think 12? Bill (a stutterer) is sort-of the leader of this group that are called The Losers. He is joined by his best friends Richie (who talks way too much), Stan (a germophobe), and Eddie (a hypochondriac). Even as a group they are no match for dickhead bully Henry and his gang of goons. Henry really reminds me of a real bully from the 1980’s which was a time where everyone just seemed to turn the other cheek when kids were being bullied.

A year prior Bill’s younger brother Georgie disappeared and Bill wants to investigate the sewer system to possibly find some clues on his brother’s disappearance. Unfortunately for Bill having a germophobe and a hypochondriac for friends usually means that you have two friends who aren’t going into a sewer with you. The gang grows when they are soon joined by Ben (an overweight kid also bullied by Henry) and Bev (known for being poor and the town slut – she is poor but does not deserve the reputation).

The group then has to deal with a bully who has no problem pulling a knife and a supernatural creature who has no problem ripping off 7 year old’s arms. Pennywise continues to torment The Losers individually but the group ends up talking about the killer clown who is messing with them. Eventually the group grows by one when Mike joins The Losers – a home-schooled black kid who is also being tortured by Henry. First the group stands up to Henry and actually ends up victorious. Then Bill is pretty much certain that his missing brother probably died at the hands of Pennywise. Bill doesn’t want revenge so much as he wants the killings to end. He’s willing to stand up to the creature even if it means he dies trying. His friends…aren’t so much with him.

The one thing I remember from the book (and/or from the TV movie) was that imagination played a large part in helping to defeat Pennywise. That doesn’t happen so much here but I didn’t mind the changes. Some were disappointed that this film is missing the orgy scene (in the book Bev sleeps with all of The Losers…so much for not deserving the reputation) but I’m very much glad they kept that out. Who in their right minds wants to sit there in a theater as a bunch of very young actors simulate sex?

The huge standout of the movie is Sophia Lillis who plays Bev. I thought she was just outstanding and one hell of a great actor. Most of the kids were pretty great in this movie but Lillis rose above them all. I really dug Finn Wolfhard as Richie. Wolfhard is excellent in Stranger Things so I was excited to see him in a big movie like this.

Many people have talked on how great Pennywise is in this film. Bill Skarsgård was pretty good in the role and really approached the role differently. He wasn’t trying to be Tim Curry – which was probably a good move. But Pennywise wasn’t really scary which is a shame. I’ll tell you what. Tim Curry, with just actual practical effects and a clown outfit, was 1000x more scary. I am still very creeped out by him. I didn’t quite feel that way about Bill’s Pennywise. Sometimes less is more and can be more effective.

I thought this film was a big budget film because pretty much everything up on screen looked amazing. I was surprised to read that the film only cost $35 million to make. There’s no big stars to pay in this film so you don’t have to pay big salaries.  Of course that was a gamble. But the gamble paid off. Why pay a big star anyway when the movie pretty much focuses on the kids?

I really liked the kids. They were well cast. I found the kids who played Stan and Eddie to be a bit lacking compared to their peers but what these kids did as a group really kept me entertained. Not counting the Stranger Things series I think this film is the best use of kids since The Sandlot. Before that? Stand By Me and Goonies.

When the movie finished I was pretty satisfied with what I just saw. My wife flat out said she will not be returning to theaters to watch the sequel. That’s how much she disliked the film. She’s a horror fan and a vivacious reader who counts Stephen King as one of her favorite authors. I don’t think she was able to separate the novel from the film. Which is fine. I’ve seen countless movies that I was disappointed in because I read the book first and the film just didn’t compare. But I was very happy with It and I really can’t wait to see the sequel. Unfortunately between now and then I will reread the novel so I might have to prepare myself for disappointment when the sequel does arrive.

RANK: A-

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