Thursday, September 28, 2017

It, triple review

We are starting Manic Movie Month slightly early this year, because for once, we got a long awaited horror movie that was released in September, a very weird time to release it. It might have been a genius move though, because the movie "It" has been a huge hit in cinemas all around the world, drawing in tons of money and becoming the second best selling "R" rated movie to this date (right after "Deadpool"). It is pretty impressive since there were quite some expectations from the start since it is based by the Stephen King book with the same name, one of his most well known horror stories. Is it as good as everybody says? Well let us check it out... later. First though, we are gonna look into the two properties of this story that already existed, the book and the mini series from 1990.

Note: Expect spoilers in these reviews, so if you have not read or seen these medias yet, do it now (unless you are like me and do not care for spoilers, then feel free to carry on).

The book

Now, this might be the least descriptive review of the three since it was a while ago I read it, and no, I am not going to read it again just for the sake of this review. Not that I think the book sucks (it doesn't), but it is literally a brick in paper form, spanning over a thousand pages, and knowing that I am a really slow reader, there is no way I am going to read it out before the end of 2017. I still remember enough from it to give it a fair judgment, so here goes nothing I guess.

The book version of "It" can be split into two parts. The first half is going back and forth in time, taking good time and care in introducing us to the town that is Derry and its characters. In the past, we get to know our main characters when they were kids, living their own little lives together with their own little problems, eventually running into our main  villain of the story, Pennywise the dancing clown, and also each other. Each member of the so called Losers Club has a nice and memorable personality that feels believable. We have the jokester, the leader, the scaredy cat, and that asthma kid, it is easy to remember these guys (and girl), which I am thankful for. Because of the skipping in time periods, it can become quite difficult to follow along from time to time, so having strong characters with strong back stories are a must.

The second part takes place in present day, where all of our characters (minus one) finally meet up again in Derry, fulfilling the promise they once took. Now, the present day Losers Club is maybe not as strong in individual character as their child counterparts, but I think that was intended, because that eventually changes when they finally meet again after 27 years. It is like they become 12 years old again, and that nothing has changed after all those years. Just nice.

With over a thousand pages, you can be sure that there is a lot of detail in this book, and fortunately, this is one of its main strengths. Mr. King packs it in with tons of details, making it very easy to visualize every happening, especially the parts where the kids first encounter Pennywise and get to face their deepest fears, everything from werewolves to lepers. And I got to admit, some of these moments are creepy as hell, making my skin crawl and my hair rise. This is exactly why I absolutely love Stephen King, he just knows how to write a juicy story with tons of emotion.

So even if "It" is gonna give some people a good work out by only holding it up, and that it can be tricky to navigate in time and space, it is still an exciting read that should make the hours fly away pretty quickly. It is easy to see why this has become one of King's most well known stories, it takes its time to build up the world and its characters, while never really letting you rest, keeping the suspense high. It is just like King said himself, "Only the last thousand pages of the book are thrilling".

Rating: 9/10

The mini-series

Made in 1990, the "It" mini-series follows the original material pretty closely, both in structure and in story. Just like the book, the mini-series is split into two parts (each having a length of one and a half hour), with the first following our heroes in their youths while also introducing them as adults, and the second part is only them as adults, trying to take down Pennywise once and for all. Why really mess up a winning concept, it worked fairly well in the book, and it certainly works here too.

And just like in the book, the characters are just as memorable as you would have hoped, with each kid just delivering a very solid performance that just feels right for the time it is set in (the 1960's). Hell, even a really cliched character like the bully Henry Bowers feels right, with his stupid hair that is stolen from The Fonz and that rockabilly attitude. The adults feels more solid too, still being outshined to the kids, but still feeling interesting.

But then we get to one of the main problems with this mini-series, the performances. While the kids are doing a great job, the adults seems to not really take this seriously at all, with some phoning in their lines, while others are just going bonkers. The latter is perfectly exemplified with the performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise, which is an incredibly iconic performance, but it is just fucking wacky. Tim is having the time of his life, acting like a fun clown on meth that seems to be everywhere and nowhere, and he completely outshines everybody, forcing you to remember him.

However, while that performance is pretty amazing for what it is, it is not even a bit scary. Sure, clowns by themselves are frightening, but the fun factor is taking over way too much, so the build up to the scare is never really there. I would say the only scary scenes with Pennywise is when he shows his razor sharp teeth, and that is it. It might be a generation thing, but I honestly cannot see why people got scared by this back in the days, it is just goofy.

waHA waHA waHA waHA waHA
Also, believe me when I say that the effects does not help out either, in fact, they make it even worse. Technology has obviously come a long way since the 90's, but not even the practical effects are any good, not adding to the experience. It all reaches a culmination point in the ending where the Losers Club is ready to take down Pennywise, and he turns into the fakest spider I have ever seen (and I have seen this). Seriously, I can be pretty afraid of spiders if they are big enough, but I just laugh at this one for how incredibly stupid it looks, and that is the grand finale that we have waited for? What a fucking let down.

So no, "It" the mini-series is not good, it is not even close to what Stephen King was going for, even if it stayed very true to the source material (unfortunately, this one is not alone on taking a King story to the television/movie screens). I got to say though, while it has its dull moments, and is not the least bit scary, it is still pretty entertaining. Some performances are just brilliantly bad, and some of the writing is actually kind of fun and cool. The first part is clearly the superior one, but the second one has a couple of moments too, so if you are a fan of the book, it might be worthy of a look, at least just to see Tim Curry just messing with everybody, actors, directors, and audience alike.

Rating: 6/10

The movie

So finally we have reached the movie, and I think it goes without saying that it is way scarier than the mini-series ever could be. But before I get more into that, I have to first state that the movie is taking way more liberties, and that is a good thing. First, the past section is set in the late 80's, so that the upcoming second chapter can really be set in present day. That in itself gives us some changes to both the world and the story, and they are all great, like Henry is more of a young thrash punk than a stupid rockabilly kid. Second, in this movie, we are fully focusing on when they were children, not skipping back and forth all over the place, which I think is a fantastic decision so that the second chapter can almost be like a fresh start of sorts instead of a straight up follow up.

While the characters are not too different from in the book, they do still feel like they are from that era, they feel real and honest, and most importantly, they feel like kids. They swear a lot, they say what comes to mind, and they rarely goes into that stupid cliched territory that most movie kids are slotted into. I definitely love the fact that there is so much comedy in this movie, almost showing that it is a way for the kids to deal with all that's going on.

And yes, the kids themselves are fantastic, they really feel like a club together, going through this with each other. Each kid actor is amazing, but I gotta hand the MVP to the "Stranger Things" actor Jaeden Lieberher, who really feels like a stuttering kids. These six kids (I would say seven, but we do not get a lot of Mike Hanlon in this movie) are running the show completely, even when the clown is trying to steal the spotlight.

Oh yeah, we have to talk about Pennywise, which is played by one of the million Skarsgårds, Bill. This Pennywise is most certainly frightening from the get go, with that creepy smile and close to morbid make up, but add tons of teeth and some insane transformations, and he becomes borderline insane. Bill is just like Tim having the time of his life, soaking in every minute of screen time he gets, and even though his performance is pretty strange, even out right bonkers, it still hits a home run without going too goofy (although, some of the epilepsy runs he does are pretty silly). It is a very memorable effort by Bill, and he not only match Tim Curry, but he out classes him.

It also helps that the surroundings are pretty creepy as well, with a sense that the whole town is either cursed or just mad. Each of the loser kid's parents are fucked up, from being abusive to over protective, it definitely makes me happy that I never got parents like them. Add the monsters into this movie, and it all turns even darker. Some of these designs are fantastic, like the headless Easter egg hunter and his unnatural movement, or the distorted face of the flute lady, or the vomit inducing gross imagery that is the leper. It all helps making this movie tense, keeping you alert throughout its run time, with the highlight, for me at least, being the projector scene, which is some of the scariest stuff I have seen in a while. Without spoiling too much, I can only say that it might be worth it to see the 3D version for that scene alone. Wait, does this movie even have 3D?

*goes to check IMDB*

Aww, that is the first time I am sad that a movie does not have 3D.

So the most common complaint I have seen from different sources is that the movie is too long and that it has multiple endings, and while I cannot really say against those statements, I am not too bothered by them. Sure, some scenes could have been shorten, and the movie would have benefited from being under 2 hours instead of over, but I think the movie earned every minute, creating a unique take to the classic story that feels fresh and interesting. With that said, I do think the first "ending" was pretty unnecessary, and if that really was the ending, I think I would have been extremely pissed. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the real ending is much better, and also stays true to the source material.

So all in all, this movie is simply fantastic, most certainly one of the best movies released this year. It is exciting, the acting is memorable, the effects are really cool, and most impressive of all, it makes necessary changes to the original story. You can tell that those behind this movie really respected the book and tried their best to make it as strong as possible, and even if it is a bit too long, it still holds up all the way through. I cannot wait for the second chapter, I wanna see all of these kids grown up, fighting Pennywise once more, hopefully without a laughably fake spider as the grand crescendo.

Rating: 8,5/10

So we have now officially begun the MMM of 2017, expect more movie reviews in the next 30 days.

Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

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