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Stephen King's IT (2017) (Read 853 times)
Sep 22nd, 2017 at 5:40pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Stephen King has always been adept at depicting the peculiarities of townfolk, especially from a child's POV. The trick in adapting his work is to maintain that adeptness while also, by necessity, doing so without 1,000 pages. This adaptation of IT certainly plunges into the world of the children at the center. These characters are pretty well fleshed out (kudos to the actors, as well). More problematic is how Director Muschietti and his trio of writers treat the horror.

Simply put, we never get a sense of the exact nature of the evil. There seems to be no rules as to who lives or dies, why some manifestations are literal and others imaginary, why Pennywise is critical to the malevolence etc.. The filmmakers not only don't have the space of a novel, they also are adapting only half it. In this case, that may have been a perfectly valid plan of action (as is moving the story ahead over a quarter of a century). Still, the compressions do matter. Without knowing the rulebook, there isn't the same degree of suspense (if you don't know why a life is/isn't in danger at a given point in the story you just shrug and wait to find out if this is another hallucination or 'the real thing').

Still, this is a pretty intense picture. There's a grim but palpable atmosphere that grabs you from the prologue that carries through to the end. The production design and other tech elements (especially, the sound work) are all fine although Benjamin Wallfisch's score succumbs to the the current mode of overly loud horror soundtracks. As noted, the acting by the young cast is very good and the few adults do fine as well including Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. I understand it is part of King's overall 'evil cursed town' theme, but some of the abuse and bullying gets a bit too much at times (and, without the prose to justify it, often comes off as just mean and ugly).

IT is being sold on the Pennywise image. Obviously, he's central, but, a little less would have been more effective. A more subtle and inviting character would pay off as more menacing as 'it' turned. But, subtlety goes out the door with the final two big sequences in the old haunted house. Far too much CGI and ear-piercing surround sound blaring. The quieter moments (particularly amongst the kids) are the ones that work best. Aside from the special effects overkill, the lack of a rulebook also diminishes the climax. A poster for NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET V only adds to the comparison between Freddy Krueger and Pennywise. By Part V, the Elm Street series had long collapsed into self-parody, but, in the original Freddy Krueger had a very specific backstory and reason for being. Stephen King and the IT filmmakers are obviously aiming for something much more metaphysical, but, as a film, Wes Craven's original had a much more cogent and specific evil that made it a much more successful film. IT is okay, but, there was a far better movie that got buried under the welter of SFX and vague storytelling.

P.S. I have to make special note of the rock fight scene. WTF??!! Do the filmmakers not understand the difference between a fist-sized rock and snowball? This is one of the most absurd scenes of the year. I know it's in the novel, but, it simply plays differently on the big screen.
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