Stephen King adaptations are a hit-or-miss affair. While King is an experienced writer and can generally make even the silliest and most bizarre premises seem plausible and frightening, when put to screen by different minds, it is easy for many of his works to come off as ludicrous. This was certainly the case with the original 1990’s It miniseries, which featured several cringe-inducing moments and lines, especially from Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown. Fans of the original text had hoped for a scarier, grittier adaptation of a book about an evil demon clown turtle, so when the remake was announced 27 years later, many were filled with hope.
Oh, how sadly misplaced that hope was. It is a urine-flavored laughing-gas nightmare and provides almost nothing of value or even entertainment to fans of horror cinema, Stephen King, clowns, being alive, or sentience.
There’s really a lot wrong with this movie, to the point where it’s hard to point it all out. The most egregious fault is the complete and utter lack of anything resembling subtlety. The whole ham-handed point, which I feel no guilt whatsoever at revealing as it’s not even good enough to be able to spoil, is that fear drives people apart and kills them, but coming together makes us stronger. Is this conveyed through complex narrative, or gradual slow and subtle examinations of the characters actions and thoughts? No. The clown literally turns to the camera and says “fear,” at one point in the film, and as he runs around the sewer system pranking his victims in a manner that is more obnoxious than malignant, he repeatedly tells his victims “I live off your fear! Fear is great! Blah blah fear!” Beverly, on the other hand, the least two-dimensional of our balsa-wood cutout protagonists, repeatedly tells everyone that “the clown wants to drive us apart! Only by uniting and coming together can we be strong!” Because when people go to see movies about killer clowns, clearly what they’re really looking for is a film about unions.
The film’s other pervading metaphor is the conflation of the monster and suburbia, which it conveys through some rather tasteless depictions of gaslighting, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, which were really more unpleasant than anything else.
Speaking of things which are excessive and not scary or entertaining to watch, the acting is all around dreadful. That Stranger Things kid is in it, playing himself again, and is surrounded by unremarkable child actors who are either too talentless to bring any life into their roles, or whose characters were too vapid and poorly defined to be inhabited by the performers—it’s unclear. What is clear, though, is that the children are forgettable and impossible to feel any real attachment to.
This might not have been such a bad thing, in another world. The point of a horror movie is to scare, after all, and is sometimes best achieved through narrators we either don’t care about or whom the viewer is meant to actively despise. But this brings us to the urinal-cake cherry on top of the sh-It sundae, Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise.
Somehow, this actor, who was paid money to play this part, took a clown, one of the scariest things imaginable, who murders children, which is also terrifying, and made it absolutely hysterical to watch. Believe me, ladies and gentlemen, you will fear nothing in this waste of 135 minutes, but you will be delivered to heights of mirth unknown to the man of yesterday! Because after the initial scare at the beginning, which wasn’t particularly well-executed, Pennywise just runs around the town pranking the main characters through mimicking voices, throwing balloons at them, popping out of walls and screens and spraying invisible blood all over bathrooms, and even, I kid you not, Russian folk dancing in front of them. All the menace and instinctual terror which could be raised by an abuse/conservatism-metaphor cannibal demon clown (who was also a space-turtle or some shit in the book) immediately dissipates, and we are left instead with a stilted, uncanny performance filled with goofy CGI shenanigans and disjointed cinematography.
What else can I say about this? That the plot and the sheer obliviousness it relies upon stretch credibility beyond belief? That the visuals were not scary or even nice to look at? The mind-numbing ending where they discover they can actually just punch the clown or beat him to death with baseball bats, making this already non-threatening entity seem like even less of a danger? The over-long running time? Perhaps instead I should remark upon the only part of the film I did enjoy: when the credits rolled and the lights came up.
Please don’t see It. I mean it, it will be so disappointing it’ll make the end of How I Met Your Mother seem like Hamlet.