Cinematic Releases: We All Float Down Here: IT (2017) Reviewed

stephen king

Stephen King has proven to be one of the most difficult authors to adapt. Dozens of his stories have been brought to the big screen over the years, with an extremely mixed bag of results.  Trapped in development for years, various directors and screenwriters have struggled to bring his mammoth epic, IT, to theaters which has instilled a sense of caution within diehard fans and horror aficionados.  Andy Muschietti's version is a trimmed down, well-oiled infernal contraption.  Featuring an outstanding ensemble, uncharacteristically striking visuals, and a poignant story about the power of friendship and imagination, audiences can rest easy.  The near perfect adaptation of a King novel has finally been created.  

Children are being killed by an otherworldly entity in the quiet, but insidious town of Derry, Maine.  Seven children, The Losers, band together to put a stop to the terror once and for all, with the unbreakable bonds of comradery as their only weapon. Bill Skarsgard gives the performance of a lifetime as Pennywise, the menacing clown-like avatar of the creature.  While a previous incarnation focused on stinging humor and psychological warfare, Skarsgard doubles down on the cosmic menace, portraying a horror out of time.  One of the best aspects of the script is how Pennywise is only one face of IT, allowing each experience with the clown to have maximum impact.  While the story omits several important concepts from the text, it remains true to the heart of the story, focusing on the struggle of children who so often go ignored in the face of unrelenting cruelty.  Nicolas Hamilton provides an equally chilling turn as sociopathic bully Henry Bowers, The Losers corporeal enemy.  While the supernatural is an omnipresent foe, Hamilton's Bowers is a remarkable adversary, a chilling reminder of the playground specters that haunt outsiders every day. 

Here fishy fishy.......

Finn Wolfhard is the showstopper. His embodiment of Richie "Trashmouth" Tozier is not only a pitch perfect copy of the character, it's also the wounded heart at the center of IT's mythology.  These are mischievous, foul mouthed kids discovering themselves in a summer of darkness, and Wolfhard's patient, smile inducing turn is one for the ages.  IT blends elements of films like The Goonies and The Monster Squad, building upon the group of rejects trope and morphing it into a parable about the universal truth of life: In the end, only your crew matters, be it blood relatives, or brothers and sisters gained in the face of tragedy that inevitably finds its way into the heart and it is Wolfhard’s comedic hero that drives everything home.   

Legendary cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung's attentive eye is everywhere. The camerawork, combined with claustrophobic editing produces a visceral effect that leaves the heart racing in virtually every sequence.  This is part of the fun.  Yes, there are jump scares aplenty and an abundance of CGI, but Chung's ability to frame compositions, be it in a desiccated house or a filthy sewer pipe allows the special effects to meld into the environs seamlessly.  The manner in which the "Deadlights" and their malicious effect is communicated is resplendent, an untrustworthy glimmer within Pennywise's unholy lair; a set piece that will hopefully garner awards for Peter Grundy's outstanding art direction.  Makeup and costuming are used to inflict maximum trauma, symbolizing a beautiful understanding of IT's phobic nature.  Fear is the enemy, and while Skarsgard's Pennywise is essential to the recipe, the underlying implications of the power of fear over children is the core of King's work and Muschietti and company are meticulous with their presentation of this throughout.  

Damn, there sure are some
stranger things going on around here.......

IT delivers the thrills, laughs, and most importantly a potent reminder of the power of cinema.  While the material is most certainly adult oriented, it's virtually impossible to experience Andy Muschietti's dark fairy tale without remembering the wonders of childhood.  An absolutely unforgettable horror fable that builds upon the uncanny strength of its youthful cast and features audacious visuals that will enchant as much as a they torment, IT is the film experience audiences have been waiting for. 

Share this review if you know what's good for you. 

-Kyle Jonathan