By CHRISTIAN METZGER ‘20
Remakes of classic films often earn scorn from general audiences, but It, based off Stephen King’s novel of the same name, manages to trump its predecessor in spades. Perhaps the biggest godsend of the remake is time—the original It is just over three hours long while the remake is only an hour and thirty minutes, and with the original you feel every minute. Part of that is the sloppy construction of the plot, as it is separated into two portions: the adult storyline and flashbacks when the characters were younger.
This wouldn’t be such a problem, but the flashbacks were sloppily edited in a way that destroys the narrative flow, and constantly appear again to remind the audience of plot points like a nagging schoolteacher. Yet the remake corrects the issue by having one narrative, following their adventures through the town of Derry, to solve the mystery of the vanishing children. With one continuous, uninterrupted plot, the audience comes to comprehend the narrative and empathize with the characters easily.
The characters themselves are relatable and you come to empathize with each one of the main cast, which is only pulled off by the stellar acting on the part of the child actors. This is something both versions of It managed to do well—breaking conventions of a terrible string of child actors to sell the viewer that all these characters are real and have good chemistry as friends. The adult actors, too, are serviceable. But like the original, they do serve to be as one-dimensional foils that seem one-dimensional cartoons, by comparison, and are some of the weaker elements of both films. No horror movie is complete without its monster, and Bill Skarsgård pulls off a disturbing portrayal as Pennywise that exudes a feeling of horror and dread every time his trademark red balloon appears. By comparison, Tim Curry plays a memorable version of the clown, but, due to the film’s own shortcomings, his over-the-top performance doesn’t hold enough menace and seems comical a majority of the time, undercutting the entire point of a horror film.
As a horror movie, It falls into what we naturally expect the film to deliver—and the remake doesn’t fail. Underscored with haunting carnival-themed melodies, piano tunes, and the occasional lighthearted New Kids on the Block song for moments of levity, and coupled with appropriately grim lighting and many imposing wide shots, the atmosphere sends chills up the spine.
Assisted with the effects work, the remake only manages the punctuate the scares by allowing Pennywise to take on the forms of various creatures. The original, again, fails to live up to the standards of the remake. The music was sparse, diegetic, and left little impact or punch; moments that should be scary only become comical. The lighting was also flat and standard, along with very basic and unambitious shots that evoked nothing but boredom. Also, the effects were downright awful, leading up to a climax that was dragged down by a laughably fake puppet that wouldn’t so much as terrify even the youngest of children.
On all fronts, It is a critical success that gives us a fresh and terrifying experience that doesn’t fail to deliver King’s scares to the big screen. While some elements of the original do manage to get a laugh and have good acting, it hardly manages to hold up to any expectations and is a slog to watch. One can only hope that other films will “float” up to the same bar.
Christian Metzger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.