It (1990 and 2017) film review

1990 version rated: 3/5
2017 version rated: 3/5

Oh God has it been too long since I’ve witnessed a film that gives me so much material to work with for my review. So eager to type down my thoughts. Oh, and if you’re wondering if there’s going to be spoilers, you bet your ass there’s going to be spoilers. I’m going to spoil the shit out of the 2017 film, the 1990 film, and the novel. Yep, I’ve been reading the novel too.

Oh, and by the way, I will be spoiling the shit out of this.

So first off, the cast of both films. The Loser’s Club:

“Stuttering/Big” Bill Denbrough: Close, but I’m going to give it to the kid from the first film. His look and face expressions are good. Even when he looks stupid with his reactions, you can tell he’s trying his damnedest despite the director’s efforts to sabotage the film.

Honestly, you can tell this kid is trying his damnedest to act good, but I don’t think anyone could make this bit not seem silly.

“Beep Beep” Ritchie Tozier: Close again. This time, I’d have to make it a tie. Granted, the 1990 actor made himself a distinct presence. Come to think of it, almost everyone in the 1990 film had a way to make themselves distinct from the rest, moreso than the 2017 film. On the one hand, distinct presence aside, he was funny enough. On the other hand, the 2017 kid also said some pretty funny lines, like when he described how the fat kid Ben was cut open and was “bleeding hamburger helper.” That got me laughing out loud. But then again, there’s less limits with the remake considering the R rating, so the 2017 Ritchie is allowed to throw out more F-bombs along with his one-liners. There’s pros and cons to both actors, so I’m just going to call it a draw here.

Beverly Marsh: 2017 version, hands down. Better looking, more adorable, a great smile, and acted more badass (let alone is a better actress). I’d take this freckle-faced redhead over the plain 1990 one anyday.

 

 

 

Eddie Kasbrack: Jeez, I’m not sure here. Neither one impressed me that much. I mean, the acting from neither isn’t terrible or anything, but neither one stood out that much apart from the wheezing. I guess I’ll hand it over to the 2017 one just because the character was given more to do. That’s not fair, but that’s life.

Mike Hanlon: Yep, I’d have to give the 2017 Mike the win here. He definitely had more character than the 1990 version.

Ben “Haystack” Hanscom: 1990 version, easily. This is the one kid-actor from the 2017 one who didn’t impress me, at all. As plain as the Pillsbury Doughboy (except that the Doughboy had more character to him than Blubber Huff did in this film). This was seriously the best fat kid actor they could come up with? Come on, there had to be someone besides him. I mean, he didn’t do anything cringe-inducing or anything; but there was nothing interesting about him, at all. The 1990 actor had attitude, and allowed his acting skills to shine at the right moments. The fatso in the 2017 version, he had a few opportunities to shine, and he failed at each one, managing mediocrity at best.

Stanley Uris: So you know how I was bitching about the mediocrity of the fat kid just a moment ago? Well that applies to Stanley here too, except that extends to both films. The most forgettable character of the Loser’s club in both movies. No wonder he decided to slice his wrists and commit suicide as an adult (the character, hopefully that never happens to the real-life actor). It’s a draw.

1990: 2 wins
2017: 3 wins
2 draws

Note: I stopped putting up comparison pictures because I stopped giving a shit.

Well, there’s one point for the remake. The thing is though, the 1990 miniseries paced itself better when it came to character introductions and interactions. The 2017 version shoves them altogether early on, making it difficult to distinguish them as individuals early on. So when rating them, it’s not just on acting talent, its also in regards to screen presence. Even a so-so actor can have a more significant and distinct presence than an actor who is superior. It depends on how they are presented. If it was on acting talent alone, all the 2017 kids would get higher props than the 1990 kids, except for fat Ben. That being said, when it comes to the inevitable sequel, I will be disappointed if every single adult didn’t act circles around the adult actors from the miniseries (especially Beverly).

Seriously, it can’t be that difficult to act better than this.

Now for the horror moments. Of course they’re better in the 2017 adaptation than the 1990 adaptation. Bigger budget, not limited by a rating (or trying to be tame enough for family-friendly television), and better technological advancements. Regarding the violence, this film doesn’t hold back much, if anything, when it comes to violence against kids (thank fucking God, that’s a breathe of fresh air). We see Ben actually get his stomach carved with Henry Bower’s knife, and then slashed with a part of a gate (he honestly should’ve gone to the hospital after that, but apparently he can gut it out [hardy har har]); Eddie getting his wrist broken; and another kid getting shot in the head; not to mention one kid slicing an adult’s throat. Good times. That being said, I had some issues with the remake when it came to the horror elements.

First, the opening scene, with Pennywise luring Georgie into the sewer. So the 2017 film starts off well enough when the clown first appears, having his eyes appear first before his entire face shows up. It’s all a great creepy moment, with the clown luring Georgie in with happy mannerisms and talk of circus food and whatnot. Then the film fucks it up by having the clown turn serious and scary just for the hell of it, making Georgie want to leave. THAT’S NOT HOW IT FUCKING WORKS! The clown (and every expert pedophile in the world) should know that you don’t try to scare the shit out of a kid before you get a hold of them, you’re supposed to stay friendly until you grab their arm, then you can be as terrifying as you want until you bite their arm off. It’s little fuck-ups like this that piss me off in films.

One sequence that actually worked pretty well is when one of the bullies in Henry Bower’s group (Patrick Hockstetter) is looking in the sewers for Ben. It’s a callback to Ridley Scott’s Alien, with him using a lighter and a spray can to light up the place. It’s brilliant, and a fairly well-done bit.

But then there’s the scene with the blood bursting out of the sink in Beverly’s face. Now, it’s worth noting that, prior to this moment, hair shoots out of the drain to wrap itself around Beverly’s arms, legs, and head, giving me Evil Dead tree vibes. I didn’t think that was necessary, but it was creepy enough, so whatever. But what’s also unnecessary is just how much fucking blood shoots out of the sink. You mine as well have Slayer playing, “Raining blooooooood!” in the background. This causes the entire bathroom, from floor to ceiling, and all 4 walls, to get drenched in red.

So later on, when Beverly brings some of the guys over to see the bathroom, so that she can figure out if she’s going crazy or not, they do not react the way kids should. When they open the door and see the room, they seem pretty mellow about it all. I can think of a few reactions that are better suited for this situation. When they open the door and see all the blood everywhere, someone should’ve said, “Holy shit!” Or, “What the fuck!?” Or even, “Jesus Christ! Is this what happens when girls get periods?” Any of those reactions would’ve been better than the one they give in the film. The only thing more strange than their reaction is that we’re supposed to believe these kids can clean up the bathroom so fast (yeah, I’m calling loads of bullshit on that).

Bloody metaphors for PMSing aside, the worst of the scares comes during that segment in the garage with the slide projector. It was interesting at first with the clown appearing in it and all. But then it got all ruined when he popped out of the picture. Just got stupid at that point.

All the other “scare” scenes were more-or-less decent. Unfortunately this film did what I feared (haha) it was going to do, jump-scares. There’s nothing I find more annoying in a horror film than an overuse of jump-scares. Say what you will about the 1990 version, but it kept those at a minimum. This one, they’re more numerous. Granted, they never got so bad as to ruin the film for me, but this could’ve been much more effective if it kept along the lines of a creeping terror, a lurking fear, rather than a “Boo!”. But when it went for the creepy atmosphere, it did a good job, far better than the 1990 miniseries.

But the other thing to consider, and this is a big one, is the companionship, the camaraderie, the friendship expressed by the group. The main moment I felt that in the 1990 film was when they were building the dam in the Barrens (something that was in the book that was left out in the 2017 version). In the 2017 film, it’s when they jumped into the lake and played in the water.  Honestly, both films do the whole lucky seven friendship thing quite well.

They also play up the love-triangle with Bill, Ben, and Beverly (the triple Bees you could call it) far better than in the 1990 film, even if the actor playing Ben isn’t that great. They touch upon the whole coming-of-age thing by indicating that all of these kids are starting to go through puberty, and so the boys occasionally give Beverly these shy looks, and how Beverly gets a crush on Bill, but Ben has a crush on Beverly, and all that other stuff. It’s handled quite well in this film, and was never addressed that much in the 1990 version. And in case you were wondering, for any of you who have read the novel, no. No the film did not include the portion where Beverly has sex with all the boys so they can get out of the sewers. It was stupid in the book, and it would be stupid in the movie.  I mean, I get it, it’s supposed to show Beverly coming into her own, defying her father, having sex on her own account and without restriction from her daddy (who may also want to bang his daughter, that’s left up in the air in both the film and the book; doesn’t quite go Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me on us), while also keeping the lucky seven group together.  But you would think there’s a better way to do it then that.  But hey, King was cocked out half the time when writing the book, so…

And then, of course, there’s Pennywise, The Dancing Clown. So first off, unlike the first film, we actually get to see Pennywise dancing here. The problem is that he dances like this:

So for me, personally, it didn’t seem scary or intimidating or anything. I mean, I guess it’s not necessarily supposed to, but it’s moments like this where I’m thinking it’s better off left to the viewer’s imagination, imagining this freaky fucking clown dancing rather than actually seeing it. That applies to a lot of the scares that are in the novel. While reading it, the entire time all I could think was, “There’s no way a movie can make these things look scary, there’s just no way.” Whatever the reader is thinking of when visualizing what the book describes, there’s no way any film can match that in terms of the terror level. Hell, even reading the book I thought some of the stuff it put in was just downright stupid. The high point of the stupidity factor in the novel (so far) is when the bases on a baseball field rose out of the dirt and started flying around trying to beat one of the protagonists to death. I shit you not, that’s one of the things in the book. The creature from the black lagoon is one thing, the mummy is another, and a leper wanting to give a kid a blowjob is about as downright terrifying as things got outside of seeing the clown and what he says. But flying bases? You know, I would love to see the sequel do that. I want to see them put that on film and try to make that look scary. Please. I’m begging ya. That’s going to give me the biggest laugh of the year if they try that one out. It may be more ridiculous than the projector trick, but I’ll fucking take it.

And I thought the film went too far out of its way to make the clown scary. I don’t mean the special effects when he’s supposed to become monstrous or anything, I mean just the general appearance of the clown. I mean, fuck, isn’t this thing supposed to at least look somewhat appealing so that it can lure kids to their doom? Seriously, choosing between the Tim Curry clown and the Bill Skarsgård clown, who would you want to approach? I’d pick Tim Curry just by looks alone, that the sweet transvestite from Transylvania was a charming motherfucker back in the day; nevermind that bitchin’ voice of his.

 

That being said, at least the clown in the remake is threatening. The one in the 1990 version is just, well, there. He just points and laughs and taunts a lot. At least in the remake it seemed like he was trying to kill them each time he showed up on screen.  Plus the film’s finale is leagues beyond the finale of part 1 of the miniseries.  That finale is embarrassing by comparison, to the point where there is no comparison.  We get to see the clown change forms multiple times, and even partially.  And it remains threatening, and is fairly awesome in its own way.  If only there were some practical effects to go along with it, because they pretty much CG the shit out of everything clown/monster related for much of the action/scary scenes.

The alteration of the year this takes place in, going from 1958 to 1989. I didn’t mind this at all. The novel itself was made in-part to capitalize on late 50s nostalgia, so it’s only natural that a more recent adaptation would play on the late 80s nostalgia. Except that I don’t think it did it enough. Granted, it had Anthrax and New Kids on the Block music and posters and shirts, along with walkies, Dungeons & Dragons, and other stuff. But it never did enough to make the viewer live and breathe the time period. Then again, neither did the miniseries. The novel however, Jesus titty-fucking Christ, the fucking novel goes fucking overboard on all this. There are descriptions up the ass on everything to the point where I just got sick of it within the first 200 (out of 1100) pages. It slows the pacing down to a crawl, and there’s way too much self-indulgence on the part of the author in regards to describing anything and everything historical to make us live and breathe the town of Derry. Mission accomplished, now I never want to hear about that fucking town again.  I had to get halfway through the fucking book before it finally picked up speed that didn’t falter too much; up until then you’d be lucky to get a 30 page splurge of plot/character progression.

I’m trying to think, what movie exists that did the best job of being a nostalgia callback to an earlier time period, allowing the viewer to live and breath the setting without becoming too self-indulgent in it? Goodfellas comes to mind. Miller’s Crossing. My Girl. The Sandlot. Personally, I would’ve been more invested in the time period if these kids weren’t just riding fucking bicycles. Where’s the goddamn roller skates? Or the skateboards? For fuck’s sake, where’s that 80s attitude (there isn’t enough of it)? Sure they had the clothing and the hairstyles, but not enough of the other material. No Nintendo or Atari. Well, at least they had the arcades, and Street Fighter before Street Fighter was actually good.

Yeah, it wasn’t good here either, but damn was it entertaining!

Talking about the 1990 version for a moment, as the second half of that miniseries deals primarily with the adults, despite the fact that the adults are only as good at acting as the kids, at best (although the guy who played adult Eddie is actually pretty good, he acted the shit out of his role and did everything he could to make himself convincing), I actually liked the second half.  Of course, the climax isn’t all that satisfying considering the budget and that there’s no way it would capture the elements of the climax from the book.  But I still found it enjoyable.  On a guilty pleasure level.  The entire miniseries can only really be enjoyed on a nostalgia so-bad-it’s-good level.  Plus it has this wonderful moment that should go down as one of the best moments in film history:

The only thing that would’ve made that scene better is if Ben actually had sex with the clown (while still in Beverly form), and then during the act Bev transforms into the clown, and then it turns into a full-on parody of that scene from Rocky Horror Picture show:

I can’t hate that movie when it has something like that in it.  It’s too damn entertaining to hate.  As for the 2017 film, while it doesn’t have any so-bad-it’s-good moments to approach that level (there’s just minor annoyances), it’s solid enough, albeit with too many jump-scares, inconsistencies in the lore (the clown will only eat you if you are afraid, though that didn’t stop him from biting off Georgie’s arm the way he did, plus he could’ve just killed the little fuckers outright rather than try to scare them if he deemed them a threat, but whatever).  It’s just nice to see a film that allows kids to swear, and to have violence wrought upon them (the adults get more than their fair share in films in general).  I can recommend it, but don’t go expecting a masterpiece of horror.

On that note, I think the book is overrated too.  Granted, I haven’t finished it yet, I’m still in the middle of reading (currently on page 678 out of 1090), but good God is that first half a slog to get through.  At least it opens up with what is arguably the freakiest and most interesting part of the entire novel.  I’m not talking about Georgie’s death, I’m talking about when these bullies beat the shit out of these two gay guys and toss one of them over the side of a bridge into the lake below, and then the clown gets him.  That whole portion sets up the atmosphere of the book perfectly, and could benefit from having a short film adaptation.

Oh, and the miniseries stayed closer to the novel as well.  Granted, one would assume that considering that the 2017 film updated the time-frame, but it’s worth noting.  For instance, aside from them not building a damn in the 2017 version, there’s also no slingshot with silver rounds, and the finale is done a bit different than in the book.  Didn’t like how it turned Beverly into a bit of a damsel in distress, even if she had a badass moment earlier on; but I wanted to see her taking shots at the clown with a slingshot, or a gun, or something.

Plus, in the book, the characters laugh way too much.  Guess when you’re jacked up on coke things tend to seem funnier to you.

Will you be my neighbor?

Other reviews:
https://www.tor.com/2013/09/25/the-great-stephen-king-reread-it/

 

PS: I hate to admit it, but the clown in the remake is better overall when it comes to representing the lore and all, but they still went too far with it when it came to its normal looks.  The Tim Curry clown is what I envision when he appears around places normally, and the 2017 clown is what I envision when he’s changing forms and trying to kill the kids.

PPS: Feel free to make a Paypal donation or support me on Patreon, so that I can have some assurances that I can continue to do this ad-free, and possibly even full-time.

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