I’ve been asked about It more than any other movie this summer, and my most consistently offered assessment has been a resounding “meh.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s infinitely better than The Dark Tower, but does it deserve the most successful opening weekend box office of any horror movie in the history of film? Hell no. Still, It is reasonably effective at what it does and manages to avoid dropping the ball in any catastrophic ways, so there’s that. If all you require of a movie is a few jump scares and a relatively creepy atmosphere, you could do far worse — but for my money It is a perfectly serviceable horror film that doesn’t quite live up to its hype.
And that hype is something interesting because it’s rare for a late-fall/pre-Halloween horror movie to get the kind of marketing push that It received, and to say that those efforts have paid off would be a severe understatement. Given the record-shattering domination, it’s displayed in its opening weekend, the buzz surrounding this movie may prove more substantial than any of its constituent pieces, and as such, it may prove an odd case of a film destined to suffer in comparison to the efficacy of its marketing campaign.
Director Andy Muschietti’s take on the demonic clown may also compare unfavorably to its source material, at least for those with an in-built affinity for Stephen King’s original novel. It’s young cast performs admirably across the board — though Bill Skarsgard’s interpretation of Pennywise falls short of the unnerving griminess of Tim Curry’s 1990 version, even if this film is vastly superior to its made-for-TV predecessor. But thankfully Muschietti’s adaptation is faithful without being slavish, ditching the much-maligned underage sewer orgy while incorporating aspects of the book that had been excised from previously attached director Cary Fukunaga’s original script.
It’s worth pointing out that Fukunaga left the project over creative differences said to include an NC-17 rating because it was nearly impossible for me to divest myself of speculation on what his version of the material might’ve entailed. Muschietti is workmanlike and blunt in his effects work, whereas Fukunaga has consistently displayed a subtlety and sense of restraint that made the first season of True Detective atmospherically disturbing in a way that It is not. As things stand, however, there are few obvious faults in Muschietti’s approach, even if there isn’t much to write home about either.
Minor quibbles aside, It is a well-executed throwback thriller mining the ’80s nostalgia that’s driven the success of recent pop culture phenomena such as Stranger Things — and clearly, there’s a market for that sort of material right now. Whether or not the second chapter, expected in 2019, will prove to be similarly well-received remains to be seen, but at the very least It provides proof-of-concept for studio execs previously reluctant to throw their full weight behind an off-season horror movie. If It means we can expect better budgets and wider releases for movies like this, then I’m all for It. Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language. Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic Hendersonville, The Strand Waynesville, Co-ed Brevard