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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
I Love It
by Richard Jack Smith

Whether it’s Robert E. Howard teaching us how to be afraid and enjoying it, or hearing the classic brutality behind a Terry Plumeri symphony, horror does justice to those that wake. To the extent that Hollywood adopts a dream package, Stephen King’s It seems cherry ripe. Pluck a clown out of his domain, let him descend on Derry while terrorising some kids… that’s the story, but not the nightmare.

Anticipation builds gradually, sometimes even a crash can be felt. Then things start to move, the hype cornering you in a movie theatre ready for… It. Reaction times seem sacred because a tiny hesitation can throw minutes even whole scenes down the drain. Though I’m sure Pennywise the Clown would be happy to gobble them up. For chewing the scenery, Bill Skarsgård as the titular character, certainly does. However, he’s a fractured persona, constantly battling whatever his open-minded prey may slingshot his way. Could be a brick or it could be a tape measure.

Director Andy Muschietti defies the one-scare allegory. Anybody that claims a poster has never struck fear in them must hold secrets. Therefore, the ghostlike visage which attacks one child appears concrete enough to give us the willies.

While a life in fragments might not translate well as a lop-sided screenplay, pauses and interruptions matter. That’s where the editor can be most helpful by removing such obstacles so the actor can find their voice.  

Regarding Stephen King’s It, I loved the book. Division notwithstanding, it’s possible I could eventually enjoy the ending. Yet how does Muschietti capture the dream?

First-rate cast members convey childhood experiences as realistic human specimens. While the clown Pennywise (Skarsgård) might seem threatening, his mortal enemies are confronted by everyday issues. For example, there are possessive parents, bullies, schoolboy crushes, feeling like outsiders and those phobias which might correspond to the balloon carrying freak. Truly, Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman have delivered a screenplay arête.

Elsewhere, impatient viewers will be rewarded by the film’s early landmark. The film begins as a paper boat sails down the watery streets being chased by its eager creator. It ends on Jackson Street. Also, a neighbourhood cat observes the scene that follows. Of course, those that fear clowns (never a problem for yours truly -- I’ll protect you dear reader) might consider It too steep a climb. However, what Skarsgård brings to King’s devilish invention makes all the difference. For those shiny yellow eyes pierce the black as cruel gems from the abyss.

Despite some claret, door slamming and even the occasional curse word, it’s curiosity that won me over to Muschietti’s picture. Faced with something potentially grand, I was met by an awe-inspiring feast.   

As Ben, Jeremy Ray Taylor captures the sweetness inside a chubby soul. Having experienced bullies at school, I could understand his desire to escape the clutches of mindless hooligans. He may be large but at his core he’s an Olympic hero. Elsewhere, Sophia Lillis’ Beverly achieves empathy with the viewer. As her home life diminishes, we see a young girl transform into a lady. She achieves this through fortitude and independence.

Meanwhile, Jaeden Lieberher opens up to us. During one amazing sequence, his character Bill loses the stutter and the sudden speech alteration feels convincing.

For Skarsgård, Pennywise could have been a puppet, a device to needle rather than fascinate. In the hands of this very capable actor, the clown comes across as a sensitive being.

There’s hardly a need to separate the main trifecta. From Chung-hoon Chung’s feverish lighting to Jason Ballantine’s cutting and Benjamin Wallfisch’s soundtrack, it’s clear all three were on the same extension. If Wallfisch’s music was too large it would overtake the visual style, making a noise out of symphony. That doesn’t happen because the editing deepens every idea, including the sound design.

Before I forget, Jackson Robert Scott turns in the first but hopefully not the last fantastic performance of his career. As Georgie, he jumps out of King’s novel as surely as a jack rabbit from its resting place. This charmer looks set to become a major star, and he’s got the quality to prove it.

Let’s end on a poem:

From the sewer Pennywise came

many young lives not the same.

For Georgie it was losing the boat

and being told he could float.


Where does this clown dwell

perhaps a nearby well?

Beverly heard sounds from her sink.

Could that be where demons drink?


What gives you the most fright?

Pictures of spiders or snakes? They don’t bite.

Often a look can prove haunting.

Despite their youth, it’s not found wanting.


Make-up seems the surest bet

if Oscar will let.

A ten out of ten safely won.

For me, IT was a lot of fun.

(Released by New Line Cinema and rated “R” for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language.)

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