Before I get into my TIFF coverage, there is something else I must talk about. This weekend I saw the much anticipated release of Andy Muschetti's new version of Stephen King's It.
I came around to the idea of this adaptation after I saw the first trailer. I realized that there were a lot of things that could be improved upon from the 1990 mini-series so I gave it a chance. I'm very glad I did. Director Muschietti did an exemplary job. After his previous film Mama, we already knew he had a knack for set pieces and getting solid performances from young actors, but he took it to another level with It.
However, from day one, it was evident that this film would live or die on the portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown and Bill Skarsgård really nailed it. He didn't try to ape Tim Curry's version, but rather used his own energy. I absolutely loved the physicality he brought to this role. He looked like he was literally drinking the fear coming off his victims.
|Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the clown in It.|
Apart from Pennywise though, it was super impressive to me that Muschietti was able to assemble such a wonderful cast of eight young kids that could not only act, but also gel together as well as they did here. They were all great, especially Sophie Lillis & Jack Dylan Fraser who played Beverly & Eddie. Lillis gave a wonderfully layered performance and Fraser had this unique vibe that really made him stand out.
It's widely accepted that the downfall of Mama came from its over-reliance on CGI and Muschietti has mostly learned his lesson from that. While It did employ substantial visual effects, a lot of them were used in really creative ways. I feel like they utilized many different techniques, some of them so abstract my brain had trouble latching onto them - the lady in the painting and the headless figure in the library in particular were two real standouts for me.
|The Loser's Club 2017|
Looking back on It, I can recall so many solid set pieces. In the first half of the movie, the sheer volume of them was almost exhausting. Muschietti employed a modern jump scare formula, but he seems to have a better handle on it than most of his contemporaries. He knows when to pull back, before you fall over the precipice of desensitization. He also had the right amount of restraint on his eighties fan service. It was set then, but didn't overly ram the decade down our throats as much as Stranger Things tends to.
Another layer that I found really enticing – and this could very well be cribbed from the book – was the characterization of the town of Derry itself. I felt there was this underlying thread that the townspeople were complacent that this evil shit was just going to happen every quarter century and they just hoped it wasn't their kid that got snatched. It would explain why Eddie's mother tried to keep him sheltered from the outside world.
It was a top tier King adaptation with a measure of darkness very few have had. It always seemed to me that his vision has often obscured while on its way to the screen, either by the team at the helm or, in the case of almost all of his small screen ventures, restrained from its full potential. It felt much more like the adaptation glory years from 1976 to 1984.
I think It will take a lot of people by surprise. The previous teleplay had a very playful predilection to it that this one does not. Sure, there's the jovial shit-talking among The Loser's Club, but once It appeared well... It's like I exclaimed after the opening SS Georgie scene – “These guys aren't fucking around.”