‘Meh’ probably sums up best how I feel about this latest adaption of the Stephen King classic. It’s not a bad film exactly but there’s a good and scary, creepy Motherf*cker of a movie in there. Unfortunately, it’s lost in the usual modern Hollywood horror of jump-scares, unnecessary gore and awful, obvious CGI. Yaaaaaaay (sarcasm).
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this film when it was first announced and the following behind the scenes kerfuffles didn’t really inspire much hope, especially after Cary Fukanaga stepped aside from the director’s chair and Will Poulter ran from the Clown shoes. The release of the first image of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise didn’t help things much either.
But then came the first Teaser. And then we got the Trailer and oh, my did this baby look promising. It looked creepy. Really creepy and suddenly I was hopeful. Excited even? Was this going to be an old-school, slow-burn horror that would leave you terrified of turning the lights out after all? I was hoping so, and there is something of that fright in the film but every time It threatens to be interesting we’re ‘shocked’ by one ineffectual jump-scare after another dissipating all the dread.
The jump-scares are, short of being sign posted, quite predictable throughout most of the film and I wonder how much of that is to do with the great and creepy atmosphere that Cary Fukanaga’s script has created and Andy Muschietti’s direction (studio notes?) has robbed and undercut. The tension is never really allowed to breathe, to plant itself into your thoughts leaving the horror of what’s going on in the little town of Derry empty and devoid of any agency or concern.
This isn’t the only barrier for the atmosphere to overcome as the film often reminds you that it is a film, one of the creepiest scenes from the initial teaser was the title. The camera move is unsettling and makes the heart pound just a tad faster, in the film the shot is much longer and very quickly becomes a Burnie Burns Vlog as the camera drone hovers over the small town. It took me out of the moment and there were a few instances like that where I was aware of the filmmaking instead of drowning in terror.
I could name a number of other hindrances ranging from excessive and unnecessary gore and violence, to the inevitable ropey CGI, all of which stop the film from ever getting its groove on. The filmmakers want desperately It to be The Shining but have absolutely no faith or trust in the audience to get there so we’re left with a film that’s essentially a Haunted House during the day with all of the lights turned on. Which is a shame because they might well have gotten there if they’d had the courage but instead I walked out of the cinema wanting to re-watch the Tim Curry and John-Boy Walton ‘classic’.