|I say that sarcastically, but honestly it's true -- even in this case.|
Like with sci-fi, horror -- especially supernatural horror like this -- creates an impossible and heightened situation to put characters into, where they thrive. I like that side of the genre. Others prefer the side that puts weight on whether or not the movie is scary, sometimes to the detriment of plot and characters. In the balancing act, there's going to be disappointment on either side: the hardcore horror fans, who like the kids in Monsters Inc., are increasingly harder to scare, and the side I tend to, where the scares feel worthless if in the wake of unsatisfying character and plot. It's a hard thing to blend, and IT manages to be impressively balanced over a remarkably wide tonal range. Though personally, I was much gladder of the character development than I was the freaky bits.
On the character side IT is my cup of tea: the Pack of Boys™ character lineup is a classic. The quiet leader is Bill, Jaeden Lieberher, who keeps getting more impressive with each movie he does. Here, though there's plenty of interesting characters and crazy things happening around him, he doesn't let himself be overshadowed, and puts in the film's best and most enigmatic performance. The off-the-wall boy is Richie -- Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things (where he was the quiet leader of his own pack) -- and he impressed by comparison with his Mike Wheeler by being shockingly different from him. In spite of his potty mouth he wound up being a favorite, and was involved in many excellent moments.
|Those two stood out to me, but even tiny moments of questionable acting from any of the kids were few and far between.|
Jeremy Ray Taylor is Ben, the fat but incredibly lovable one. At his introduction I thought he was going to be a cliche, but from there he kept growing in endearment at an alarming rate. The rest stand out mostly because of their quirk: the Jewish kid Stanley (Wyatt Oleff (baby Star-Lord!)) the kid who's becoming his worry-wart mother, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the outsider, homeschooled kid, Mike (Chosen Jacobs) -- represent! Then there's the girl, Beverly (Sophia Lillis). Her performance is up there with the best of them, and the character adds a ton to the dynamic of the story. She's exceptional -- but they all are. Each kid stands out in their own way, and each gets a solo scene of seeing Pennywise for the first time; that does make one section of the film repetitive, but worth it to get solid basic development in for everyone.
I found the character of Henry (Nicholas Hamilton) extremely interesting too, but the character didn't have a real conclusion which mildly disappointing -- unless he comes back in Chapter 2. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise was of course excellent, ranging from disturbing to creepy to outright terrifying without coming across as too inhuman. And no, he's certainly not human, but he should still have character of some kind, and that he does. The makeup was top-notch, and his being naturally slightly wall-eyed was a fantastic detail. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jackson Robert Scott as Georgie, because my goodness. He was so young, and wasn't for a single moment unconvincing -- in any capacity.
|The kids handle this dark fare excellently. It's amazing.|
Plot draws the short straw -- such as it is. Individual scenes do a fine job blending horror with character development, but often do little to drive the story forward. You have the basic premise, and it moves along a straight path to the end with no twist or turns. Honestly twists and turns could have easily over-complicated things, and if only two were possible, complex characters and attention to horror thrills are the two most important, since plot can effectively work as a backdrop. The plot probably suffers from being compressed from that giant book into a two-hour-fifteen-minute runtime (even though only half the book was adapted!). You get the impression things are simplified and trimmed down to the bone, but the story does stay comprehensive, mainly held afloat by the solid characters.
IT dabbles in many types of horror which was a good idea. There's disturbing violence, edgy creepiness, suspense, gore, and jump-scares, but mainly it's good old-fashioned supernatural menace. The film's level of scariness depends on what scares you -- I felt scared only in the suspense, but many moments disturbed or surprised me, and overall the movie was tense, and yes, as scary as anything can objectively be. There's also a wonderful amount of effective comic relief, which I was monstrously glad to enjoy. And there were more than one or two moments that deftly pulled on the heartstrings.
|Still not a horror fan, but I'll watch anything for something worthwhile -- and the heart here is definitely worthwhile.|
To be completely honest, that's what I was there for. I understand that to make a good horror film you need certain elements, and to be effective in certain ways, while also creating a compelling story line, and sometimes the goals can conflict. This movie melds all its extreme elements as well as I've seen, and props to it for that, but I wasn't there for the horror and from my perspective the film succeeds almost in spite of the horror. Because the moments and elements that I loved about this story existed because of the horror-style premise, but were far, far superior to the thrill of a jump-scare. I loved watching the journey, struggle, and triumph of these characters, and I'm glad that's what mattered most to the filmmakers as well. IT is violent, dark, disturbing, and terrifying; effectively enhancing all the more the meager light that shines through.