It (2017)
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It (2017)

 

Stephen King.is an undisputed master of horror with an oeuvre encompassing success in literature, film, and television. While a certain radio shack jock has proclaimed himself ‘King of all Media’ that honorific is more appropriately applied to the native son of Maine, Stephen King. Several of his best-selling novels has been transformed into movies there is a problem inherent to the transformation process. His works are exceptionally rich in character development and exposition. His novels have the propensity for being thicker than the typical paperback, a quality my late wife and I would look for on our personal reading list. Two of the best translations of M King’s tales of terror were made into miniseries, ‘The Stand’ and ‘It,’ they have played a significant role in defining the bar of excellence for the format. Longer than the typical movie they allowed for sufficient details to justice to his works. Those in the audience afflicted with coulrophobia, the intense fear of clowns, the miniseries of ‘It’ was the ideal way telling this incredible horror story, that spans childhood to be an adult. In remaking the story as a film, Warner Brothers had the wisdom and respect for the author and fans to split the story into two films. Lately, this has become very popular in franchises as an acceptable way to transform the final novel in the series. This film concentrates on the protagonist as children with the upcoming sequel resuming the narrative 27 years later. The miniseries had achieved cult status leaving many to doubt its potential success; those fears were dissipated after an opening domestic weekend achieving the largest box office record for any Horror film with 117.1 million dollar opening weekend.

Retelling a story that has become an integral part of the zeitgeist of a generation id exceptionally difficult, but Andy Muschietti does so with panache infusing the production with his stylistic flair. His previous film and first in English, ‘Mama,’ was quickly embraced by the devotees of horror. In many respects, he was able to remain close to the book, particularly in manifesting a properly dark and foreboding atmosphere. Crucial to this was assembling an ensemble cast of spectacular tween and teen talent. Most will represent new faces for the viewer, but after the phenomenal success for youthful stories including this film and the Netflix original series, 2017 was dominated by the youth of Hollywood. Beginning with the perspective of the heroes as tweens, the story returns to October 1968. Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is a teenager who is looked up to by his younger brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott Jackson Robert Scott). To keep his brother entertained on a rainy afternoon, Bill fashions a boat out of a sheet of newspaper. Excited with his new toy Georgie goes outside to play with it in the rain sailing it in the gutter. The current is swift pulling the papercraft into a storm drain. Reaching down to retrieve his big brother’s gift the boy encounters a clown who introduces himself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). Enticing the boy with the iconic line, "We all float down here," he rips Georgie’s off while pulling him down into the dark, depths of the sewer.

The small town of Derry, Maine life moved forward towards summer. After school let out for vacation Bill, a budding writer and stutter are joined by several other social outcasts. Class clown, Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), momma’s boy Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff), hypochondriac, Eddie Kaspbrak (Eddie Kaspbrak), join as ‘the Loser Club,’ ostensibly to present a united front against the school bully, Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his gang of toadies. Bowers is the prototypical small-town bully intimidating younger and tormenting younger, smaller kids. Apart they were easy prey for Bowers but together as the Loser’s Club the own their disenfranchised social status and are strong enough to resist. The Loser’s aren’t complete yet. A new kid moves into town, Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor). Being the new kid is usually relegating the kid to a low rung on the social ladder but add overweight, shy and studious to the mix and it is a certain recipe to become bully bait. The final charter member of the Loser’s Club is Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis). When victimized by bully’s girls have a particularly difficult time. The attacks often extend reputation destroying innuendo. In this instance, the rumor mill has branded Beverly as a slut. The truth is she is a victim at home as well as school. Her father sexually abuses Beverly on a regular basis. A TV-14 miniseries would not be able to broach this issue, especially in 1990. The advantage of an R rated movie is the mature content, and full gravitas of the situations can be explored.

This might be a foreign concept to the Millennial generation, but studious, introverted kids frequently found refuge in the library. Surrounded by quiet and information on a plethora of topic it was a place of safety and comfort. Ben felt that way, and as he investigated previous missing children in Derry, he uncovered a terrible trend. Every 27 years children completely disappear. By digging deeper into the town’s legends and folklore a creature called ‘It’ or frequently ‘Pennywise the Dancing Clown,’ which when sated returns to its dormant state of hibernation. It uses the town’s sewers to move around undetected, but the center of its activity seems to be the creepy, dilapidated old house located at 29 Neibolt Street. One of the best moments of the film occurs when the Club goes to Its lair to confront it. After eons of hunting, Pennywise is a virtuoso fear playing upon each Loser focusing on their most sensitive and vulnerable. For Bill the creature taunts him about Georgie’s fate, placing the blame on Bill. The cohesiveness of the group wanes leaving only Bill, and Beverly resolved to see the mission through to the banishment of Pennywise.

The miniseries had been considered the definitive treatment of this classic horror story for 27 years. Considering the importance of that anniversary, within the context of the story, it is only fitting that a reimagined Pennywise dance out from the storm drain. Tim Curry is an incredible actor with an eclectic range. He had practice with the sinister smile from his tenure as Dr. Frank-N-Furter morphing it into the creepiest way possible to deliver the line "we all float down here’. Bill Skarsgård has also had considerable experience playing a monster. For three seasons he portrayed Roman Godfrey, the vampire-like creature called an Upir. He time on ‘Hemlock Grove’ was all too brief, but his presentation of the upper-class monster was exceptionally intense. This must be a family trait, his older brother, Alexander, played an old millennial vampire for seven years on ‘True Blood.’ Bill Skarsgård is not only talented he is a consummate professional. Knowing his role was already ironically set in the fans he wisely sought to make the character completely his own. The result was a performance worthy of lasting praise. Of course, the true stars of the film are the young actors playing the Losers Club. A stand out performance was delivered by Finn Wolfhard who is already a familiar face in horror thanks to his work on the Netflix original series, ‘Stranger Things.’ His range is showcased as he does what a professional in his craft must, seamlessly moving from the introspective Mike Wheeler to the loud Richie Tozier. Like the one young woman in the cast Sophia Lillis, it unmatched in her nuanced performance as Beverly. For young talent, she possesses a deep emotional reservoir that enabled to play such a damage girl not as a victim but as a survivor. The seven young stars will be prominently featured in the upcoming Part 2; I am looking forward to how the characters are shared with their adult counterparts. This is an example of a reimagining that deserved it time in the spotlight.

Posted 01/08/2018

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