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Review: IT – “Is that it, It?”

IT‘ may be the biggest disappointment of this cinematic year, for me. And that’s tough to take. Seeing you all enjoying the film I thought I was going to enjoy is making it even tougher (both Steve and Alan loved it). But I’m pleased for you. Through gritted teeth!

Almost all of the marketing had been on point. Much like ‘Thor: Ragnorak‘, I couldn’t find a single misstep – and I know how hard I can be to please. I had gone in expecting to be scared, thrilled, engaged. And none of that happened. It’s left me feeling a bit cheated. I don’t normally get suckered in with hype, but on this occasion, I couldn’t see any way I wasn’t going to like what I saw.

How can you want to like something so much, but have so much displeasure towards it? I’m still not sure, but it’s the second time it’s happened this year. And for me, there are similarities in why I came away disappointed. I feel I was mis-sold.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘ was a misstep for me. It fell at the midway point and started succumbing to standard Hollywood tricks, when it had promised to be different from the norm. It was nowhere near as original or clever as it thought it was. Some poor choices and atrocious CGI, aside, I don’t hate it, though. I felt like it got a free ride with reviews, though. People were willing to overlook things that I was surprised about. Willing to ignore the fact the same things had happened before – except in those incidents we’d been critical, and less forgiving. But it’s a comic book movie, and like a comic, you can take it one week, leave it another. I’d certainly rather have more than less comic books films. I even enjoy Eric Bana’s take on ‘Hulk‘. They can co-exist. I’m fine with that. But ‘IT‘ is slightly different. It’s 30 years in the making for me. I remember the blood pouring from the sink, and being shocked for one of the first times while watching a film/TV. The stakes were higher, and thus, so were my expectations.

I think they’re both clear examples of not understanding what was making the film work at that point. Characters. Relationships. Pacing.

I think ‘IT‘ does these three things really well. But when it comes to the punch, it misses the mark. For me, it almost got distracted by the fact it had free reign with gore and missed the opportunity to keep the whole thing grounded. Well, as grounded as an alien clown can be. And this isn’t about who finds what scary. If you’re scared of clowns, you’d struggle to not be scared. But I wanted more of Skarsgard staring sinisterly. Not him dancing towards the camera, as the camera shakes so hard I thought the film was going to come off. There’s no need. Imagine what Del Toro would’ve done with this. It would’ve been a slow burn. Creepy as hell. This is ‘IT‘ on acid.

2017 has been the year I discovered all of the films I should have been watching at the cinema this year (‘Elle‘, Raw‘, ‘It Comes At Night‘ – I doff my cap!) I can’t lie.  That’s had an impact on my feeling here, too. There are great things happening in the world of cinema.  I truly wanted ‘IT‘ to be an example of that. There’s really no excuse for it not to have been, in my opinion – and that’s why I’m disappointed.

I went in with every intention of loving ‘IT‘. But too often I sat open-mouthed for all the wrong reasons. Poor, lazy decision making. Jump cuts. Cutting away when things got interesting. I wonder on reflection how much it suffered from putting it into chronological order – something I thought the 1990 TV film did well.

The warning signs were there from the opening minutes. If we’re saying a clown has to have razor sharp teeth and a retractable head/face… is this the best we can do? Likewise severed arm. It made me realise, I don’t really like King very much. ‘Stand By Me‘ and ‘The Green Mile‘ any day of the week for me. Then ‘Cujo‘, maybe. Start getting into the hokey and I struggle. Even ‘The Mist’ showed you can do hokey, with out doing the hokey-kokey.

Nowadays I’m not sure you can get away with retractable heads/faces, anyway. If you can, and they seem to be, I’m surprised it’s allowed to pass. The whole thing could’ve just been a really creepy clown. Like the TV episode of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street‘, play on the darker stuff. Imply the child catcher element. That’s what I thought I was being sold.

Some sequences stand out – no question. The creepy house is unrelenting in terms of scene after scene… but this is also its downfall. It’s too much. But needn’t be. It cuts here, there, everywhere. Just let Skarsgard hunt the kids. Let him do his thing – he’s excellent at it.

I think it’s going for the haunted house/roller coaster effect – but it’s such a missed opportunity. The projector sequence is a perfect example of this, for me. What could be a really eerie scene becomes comedic. Even ‘The Ring’ played this scene better, with better effects, several years ago. There’s a way of doing that, and still keeping it creepy. And they missed that mark. When it was done well, like the librarian just standing still, you could see the potential.

I’m not saying that as a big tough guy, by the way. I’ll never forget the subliminal images in ‘The Exorcist’ – or how I’d sneak the lights on after some of James Wan’s finest moments. Hell, I even invested in HIVE so I can turn the lights out from the safety of my bed. I want to be scared. But Hollywood has it all wrong, in my opinion. It forgot a long time ago that less is more. But I never expected ‘IT‘ to out-do ‘Annabelle: Creation‘ in terms of outstaying its welcome. That’s ultimately my point, here. I was there for the taking. In the hands of the right person, this could have been the film I wanted.

This is a land mark moment for me, I think. I’ve already called out the hypocrisy in Hollywood – and worse, fandom, and no ones managed to sell me another version of that. But this is different. This isn’t ‘Wonder Woman‘ where almost all the odds were against it. This was on a platter. This was ready to be served up – and they messed it all up. Clearly, as the money rolls in, they won’t care one jot about my thoughts on that – and nor should they.

You can see the confidence the film has in itself. The “Chapter One” is proof of this.. Or the self indulgent final shot. If you want to watch rapport, and root for some losers, I’d rather watch ‘Stranger Things‘, any day. And that’s a shame, as fundamentally, I liked spending time with the Losers.

At the very least make sure your CGI of your paint woman or leper man are up to scratch. Poor, poor, poor. I shiver to think how bad they can make a giant spider look. And love the film or not, I’m staggered more people aren’t critical of this. It’s ultimately what makes me think it’s getting away with murder… literally.

Now, in the interest of being balanced, there’s some class in there too. Bill Skarsgård is excellent – and oddly reminded me of Will Poulter, (who was going to originally play Pennywise when Cary Fukunaga was down to direct the film), anyway. But therein lies the problem – just as it started to get creepy, and you can see him actually start to act, the camera starts shaking maniacally – or worse, cutting away. It’s amateur hour – like Rob Burgundy grabbed the camera – or White Goodman is barking orders.

Want subtlety? We’re all sold out, here. And that’s fine, if it weren’t for the fact the trailers were selling something else, in my mind. A creepiness that’s never allowed to breathe on the big screen.

One sequence in particular, a chase through a library, cuts back and forth so much – supposedly to create a sense of pace and urgency – that I struggled to see what was going on. It could have been far more effective to let it all play out in one long take – but we seemed to back in the realm of jump cuts. At one point I shuddered. “Jesus, it’s Ryan’s Amityville Horror all over again”. I thought we were past that. And again, there’s a pattern, the CGI is dire. It all seemed so cheap – and we know it wasn’t, so I don’t think that’s good enough.

I really think I’m in a lone camp here, and that got me thinking. Is it me? Certainly, some of the feedback suggests it is – but keep it coming. I’d rather chat to people about differing opinions than everyone agree all of the time. You have my guarantee, I’m not enjoying being contentious, here. I’m certainly not being contentious just for the sake of it. There does seem to be a strange thing occurring of late, though… disagree at your peril. All of a sudden your opinion isn’t as valid as anyone else’s – and I fundamentally don’t agree with that being fair. I’d be disappointed in anyone for being swayed by anyone else’s opinion. Why would someone else’s opinion waiver yours? I write for me. Not you.

The film makers have taken their fans for granted on both of the above occasions, in my opinion. There are lazy choices everywhere. And when there are obscene amounts of money being thrown at them, I think I’m at a point where I don’t think that’s OK. The worse thing is everyone’s been OK with it. Lapped it up, even.

I don’t think that’s OK. Not when Joel Edgerton is making excellent, taut thrillers that no one’s seen. (‘It Comes At Night‘, in case you missed it, too). And Christ. That was 90 minutes long. ‘IT‘ is guilty of all of this, where run times have become far too self-indulgent.

I’m surprised they didn’t string the book out to “Chapter Three”. Maybe we’ll get a film 27 years in the future with a retractable clown head that eats flying cars. It wouldn’t be any more obscure than some of what’s going on, here. The money that’s coming in suggests Chapter 2 will get green-lit – and I genuinely wouldn’t rule out a third… and a fourth…

IT‘ did the impossible for me. It made me appreciate the original, and its effect on me as a kid, even more. And the odd thing is I’d sat and watched that just before going in. I’d laughed at it. I’d thought how badly it had aged.

I’m gutted to write this. But the best thing about this film is that ‘Batman‘ is on at the cinema. Now that was a film. THAT was a clown.

IT (1990)

IT (2017)


What did you think of It? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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One Comment

  1. Spot on!

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