Here’s something that Leonard Wilson and I have often pondered here at the TSL offices:
Why is it sometimes easier to write about a film that you hate than a film that you love?
Seriously, whenever I watch a film that I hate, the review is practically written in my head before the end credits have even finished. Take Wolves At The Door, for instance. It took me 15 minutes to write that review, largely because I hated the movie and I knew exactly why. Perhaps it’s because the films that we hate are usually films that have absolutely nothing going on beneath the surface. It’s a lot easier to write a review when you don’t have to consider things like nuance or subtext.
But, whenever I see a film that I absolutely love, it always takes me longer to write the review. It’s intimidating to try to explain why you loved a film. After all, if you loved it then you want everyone else to love it too. And you want to be able to explain yourself with something more than just: “This was a really good movie.”
Take It, for instance. It opened last month. I saw it on opening weekend. I thought it was a great movie, one that worked in almost every way possible. I thought it was well-acted. I thought Andy Muschietti did an excellent job directing it. I thought that the film’s screenwriters did a wonderful job adapting a challenging novel. When It was scary, it made me scream. When It was funny, it made me laugh. Most importantly, when It was dramatic, it brought tears to my eyes. It was not just a brilliant horror movie but it was a brilliant movie period, one of the best of the year so far.
And yet, it’s taken me a month to write the 300 words that you just read. Fortunately, back in September, Ryan C. posted a review of his own.
I assume that most of our readers have already seen It or, at the very least, they’re familiar with what the film is generally about. It’s based on the famous novel by Stephen King, a work that many feel is King’s best. It follows a group of 12 year-old outcasts, the so-called Losers Club, as they spend the summer of 1989 trying to avoid both local bullies and Pennywise the Dancing Clown (played by Bill Skarsgard), the cannibalistic demon who lives in the sewers and who awakens every 27 years so that it can feed. Pennywise has already killed George, the younger brother of Bill Denborough (Jaeden Leiberher), the unofficial leader of the Losers Club.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Pennywise is terrifying. If horror films actually get Oscar nominations, Bill Skarsgard would, at the very least, be in the running for best supporting actor. But what’s interesting is that Pennywise is not necessarily the scariest thing about the film. As both outcasts and children, the members of the Losers Club are in the unique position to be able to understand that, despite its placid surface, Derry would be a scary place even without a killer clown. Much like the town of Twin Peaks, there is much going on underneath the surface.
Overweight Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is attacked by bully Henry Bowers (a terrifying Nicholas Hamilton), who proceeds to try to carve his name into Ben’s stomach.
Hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Glazer) is literally held prisoner by his domineering mother.
African-American Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) and Jewish Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff) spend their days being targeted over their skin color and religion.
Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) lives in poverty with her sexually abusive father.
Ever since the disappearance of George, Bill Denborough has watched his family fall apart.
Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) tells jokes because making people laugh is the only way he can convince them not to beat him up.
Even the fearsome Henry Bowers lives with an abusive father who has obviously passed down his twisted worldview to his son.
And yet, despite all of that, It is not a relentlessly grim movie. In some ways, it’s one of the most hopeful horror films that I’ve ever seen. This may be a horror film but it’s also a celebration of friendship. The members of the Losers Club may be outcasts but at least they have each other. It may be a horror film but it’s also a coming-of-age story, an adventure of growing up that the members of the Losers Club will never forget. (Except, of course, they will…but not until the sequel…) All of the child actors are natural and believable in their roles. Since he gets the funniest lines, Finn Wolfhard is an obvious audience favorite but really, the entire ensemble does a good job.
Between Get Out at the start of the year and It in September, this has been a very good year for horror. It is one of the best films of 2017 so see it.