Spooks with substance: a review of “It”

I’ve seen many movies this year, but “It” stands out in my mind because afterwards, I had the overwhelming impression that in this movie, they cared about every aspect of production.

And that’s truly surprising. Because to break even in the current movie industry, “Itonly had to be passable. But this movie won’t leave you with the bland taste in your mouth that you had after “Robocop”. Nor does it follow a stale horror formula like “The Blair Witch Project”. For better or worse, “It” is the epitome of modern Hollywood blockbusters.

Even before the movie’s release, its ingenious marketing campaign showcased an enormous attention to detail. During production, pictures slowly but strategically trickled out of the set showcasing a unique behind the scenes look into the world of horror films. Compared to the marketing for “After Earth”, which actively obscured information about the movie as basic as the director, “It”’s open approach attracted a more sizeable, dedicated following that stayed with the film until opening night.

Modern advances in effects technology make the 2017 adaption of Stephen King’s novel seem like a far cry from the low budgeted miniseries of the 90s. Pennywise’s supernatural powers have never felt so real. Considering how far out there they get, this is really saying something.

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But in this modern remake, something was lost. The look of low quality physical film the miniseries was shot on was highly effective in conveying “It”’s New England setting. It was as if the audience was viewing the whole affair on the kind of cheap cameras they might use, which created an intimate setting that made viewers feel as if they were really there. Although not realistic in any sense, the fog that blanketed the depths of the sewers only added to certain scenes’ suspense.

Now the ultra high definition cameras the movie is shot on constantly remind the audience that they are only watching a movie. While the CGI of Pennywise’s lair makes more sense within the world of the film, the artificiality of the elements of the locale don’t have the same charm as seen in the miniseries.

But perhaps the best part of this latest adaptation is the cast. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise steals nearly every scene he is in with his downright uncanny interpretation of the character. His dedication to the role sells the supernatural being as something real, Skarsgård never pauses to wipe the water from his mouth, I don’t remember seeing him blink, and that terrible smile that he does will be enough to scare you regardless of his makeup.

The child actors in this movie are not overshadowed by their adult counterparts. There’s no weak link in the whole Loser’s Club, but Richie shines especially. Finn Wolfhard, of “Stranger Things” fame, turns the somewhat quirky character in the miniseries into a constantly cussing powerhouse right out of “The Goonies”. These kids feel authentic because they act like real kids, and share a natural chemistry with one another.

“It” somehow manages to juggle the comedic tone spearheaded by Richie with the gang and the dark brooding mood that Pennywise’s presence evokes in a way that feels natural. The 2017 film “Get Out” manages to strike a similar chord of fun and fright.

One thing that “It” did not inherit from the miniseries was subtlety. If the movie “It” was playing poker and was dealt a good hand, it would run around the table and show it to everybody. You might be surprised by the scares at the beginning, but by the credits anybody will be able to read “It”’s hand and predict frightening moments a mile away. It doesn’t help that nearly every jump scare is accompanied by a jarringly loud noise.

That’s not to say that “It” relies on jump scares exclusively, unlike the horror schlock of today (cough cough “Ouija”), the movie devotes time and energy into establishing atmosphere that is creepy enough to scare the audience on its own. When it uses jump scares however, the movie falls prey to predictable trappings of the horror genre.

But if you’re looking for a movie to watch on Halloween, or anytime you’re in the mood for some spooks with substance, I can’t recommend “It” enough. It is a bold step in a new direction for Hollywood horror and I’m already counting the days until part 2.