a review by the Raven.
SPOILER LEVELS at MEDIUM
When you think about the top few things humans are generally traumatised by or fearful of, some things immediately come to mind. Namely: spiders, public speaking and (for many) clowns, which is why when I initially heard about It and saw the poster when it first came out back in 2017, my curiosity was peaked. I’m a bit creeped out by them myself. However, upon watching the trailer, something just felt… silly. A bit clowny, for lack of a better word. So I decided not to watch the movie and didn’t think about it again.
However, the movie went on to become quite famous, and Pennywise (our lead red nosed villain in question, played by Bill Skarsgard) became hugely famous and was an instant halloween costume list topper that year. I saw many, many friends from Uni sporting their grandmothers vintage ruffles coupled with caked white makeup on, much to my dismay.
Jump to present day 2019, and the second installment of author Stephen King’s story It Chapter Two (which is the second part of the same book, coming back as adults) dropped in theatres a few weeks ago. The movie states that the killer comes back every 27 years, so I suppose the sequel is the coming together of what was set up first. All of this seemed pretty cool, and led me to finally giving the movie a go. I was still curious about what the fuss was all about. So the golden question is – was it good?
It is a film that so close to being a good movie, but ends up failing right at the crucial moments, and is therefore, a big fat meh for me. The cast was alright – very reminiscent of the Stranger Things ensemble (but not as charming), coupled with a gorgeous visual identity that sadly lacked punch in the jump shots. I really enjoyed the production of this movie, but in every other aspect, it just wasn’t… it.
In terms of entertainment, It does pack some punch. It’s a film to kick back with on a Friday evening after a long day of work. It has got strong elements of the 80s and adolescent group bonding which makes it a fun film to watch with friends. And perhaps that’s exactly why it did so good. It was funny and slightly unsettling at the same time – but scary? No.
Pennywise, a dancing clown who kills children in a tiny town somewhere in Maine, meets us in a gutter (yes) and then goes on to (SPOILER) bite off a child’s arm in the first ten minutes of the film. That jumpscare was the only one that actually made me flip out. The child ends up dying, and his older brother along with his motley crew of mates come together to save the town. Together, they protect kids from bullies, run through forests at night and give their rather odd, abusive parents quite a few sleepless nights. And for a while, I was excited. Maybe this movie is actually everything it’s cracked up to be, I thought. Sadly though, the rest of the show was a bit damp from there. I didn’t jump; I laughed. Many, many times.
I went in expecting a terror of a night at the circus with freaks and illusions. Instead, I got handed a wet ticket stub for a rejected American Horror Story story. (speaking of which, the Crow and I will be reviewing this year’s American Horror Story season – here are the reviews for each of the first four episodes). I was more entertained by the beautiful visuals and shots than I was by the actual script or story.
Perhaps that’s exactly what the director – Argentianian Andy Muschietti – was going for. Nervous laughter. A mix of tense terror injected with doses of awkward humour. Hormonal pubescent kid bonding. The loss of a brother. A town going upside down. Kids saving the day. Sounds alright, but after a while, it gets tiring to follow the only girl in a group of 5 boys – played by actress Sophia Lillis – called ‘The Losers Club’ (groan) – when you’re expecting to get the shit scared out of you by the damn clown. Where is this guy?! Why am I watching a bunch of little boys staring at a girl in her training bra soaking in the sun? What does this have to even have to DO with the story? Nada.
Despite their many attempts to terrorise you, I’m not sure this movie even took itself seriously. It touches on heavy topics like abusive parenting, the death of a sibling, confronting fears – but the ragtag band of kids ultimately felt… boring. I felt like I was waiting to see where it went, and was waiting for something to happen. Constantly.
There are moments that will definitely enthral you – Pennywise’s almost Elizabethan creature design is really quite enjoyable. It does stay with you. The balloons stand out, due to the impeccable use of the colour red (which we see through the movie). The blood scene in the bathroom turns the mood darker, with a bold crimson tone. And that’s really important. The colour correction is loud. Almost crunchy. But even all the blood in the world couldn’t elevate Pennywise to a terrifying place in my head. In fact, a fair few clowns I’ve seen in real life are far scarier. BUT Pennywise is here to stay – and he’s got the number one spot because there is a severe lack of other clown villains in Hollywood in general. And voila – he has monopolised it.
All in all, great execution – but the movie just wasn’t gory enough. As someone who enjoys reading horror lit, I doubt any film can terrify me the way a book can (since horror is all about your mind playing games with you and filling in the blanks with a mad imagination). Regardless, this simply wasn’t effective enough. I’m hoping the second movie will be a stronger dose of what was delivered the first time around, and give me more jumps like the sewer scene did. I am excited to see the adult versions of the characters, and where this goes.
The closing credits rolled in with an in-your-face upcoming sequel line drop, and it all made sense. There was a space in the franchise horror space for a clown series, and that’s what It fits perfectly. It completes that vacant spot and that’s why it did so well. It came in at the right time, and any other movie that had a similar premise would’ve done just as well, if they just made the script and story tighter. Just because its written by Stephen King (who I’ve heard some rather dodgy things about it) doesn’t earn my brownie points. It doesn’t matter who wrote it – as long as it scared me in the end, and it simply didn’t.
In conclusion, It is yet another hollywood business decision. I predict that it is vying to join the franchise horror family permanently – with the likes of the Saw, Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. All these franchises play off a somewhat iconic, cool, Oct 31st cookie cutter villain (Pennywise, Jason, Jigsaw) drizzled with streaks of slasher nostalgia. But after the big hits of the last few years that are quite parallel in scenic story elements – (like Stranger Things and Riverdale) – It felt more like a mix of a bunch of stories, but with underwhelming actors in a rather dull universe, that didn’t even come armed with a scary circus of freaks.
Here’s to the next 27 years, kid.
— till next time.
THE RAVEN: 6/10
THE CROW: 4/10
Here’s the official poster: