In the run-up to Halloween, Amazon have added a variety of films to their Prime Video service and that includes the 2017 version of Stephen King’s ‘IT’. It is likely worth noting that I have not read the book nor seen the previous film from 1990 as I have a tempestuous relationship with King’s work and others’ adaptations of it. Some of his writing I find entertaining but I have also started plenty of his books and put them back down as his style grates on me too much. As such I have a healthy scepticism towards films/TV shows based on his work.
That’s one reason why I didn’t see IT (2017) earlier. Another is simply I had no one to go to the cinema with to see it and without that other person my impetus to go dissipates quickly. Nevertheless, when I saw it on Prime Video I thought I could pass a couple of hours and then, at least, I could see Chapter Two at some point.
It was mid-afternoon when I put it on and before long I had to shut the curtains because the darker scenes and shots were impossible to see. If I can’t watch your show/film in the daytime, you’ve already lost some of my confidence in you. Not everyone can or does sit in a pitch-black room to watch TV or films at home; if your photography doesn’t transfer well on the small screen it is fairly obvious you weren’t considering your long-term audience needs.
For those who haven’t seen/read IT before, you might have thought, like I did, from the trailers that Georgie (the kid in the yellow rain jacket) featured quite centrally to the film and would have a lot of screen-time. Not so. I knew he was going to disappear after having a chat with Pennywise via a storm drain but I thought that was going to be later in the film than it was. It is right at the start of the film in a spectacularly swift escalation of bloody violence that you don’t really see again. After seeing the whole film, what happens to Georgie at the onset seems out of place.
I have been told that the book is much more gory so perhaps, in that context, Georgie’s fate isn’t a stand-out event. In general, the film did not seem as gory as I had been told the book is. So I was expecting to need to look away and in the end, did not. I’m not complaining, I think gore in films is unnecessary most of the time, I’m only pointing out that if you have read the book please bear in mind I have not so my impressions are based solely on the film.
As the film progresses, we’re introduced to the Losers’ Club as they gain new members, and try to enjoy their summer while juggling Billy’s (Georgie’s older brother) desire to keep looking for his brother, trying to avoid the violent older kids lead by the police chief’s son Henry, and actually having some summer fun.
It all starts to go a bit wrong when Pennywise starts popping up and filling their heads with scary visions – all depending on each character’s deepest fear. Beverly, the sole girl of the group, sees blood. Lots of it. A geyser of blood erupts from her bathroom sink and drenches the entire room and her. In an earlier scene we saw her looking anxious and confused at the prospect of buying sanitary products. So it’s no great leap to see what King’s trying to do here and it echoes parts of ‘Carrie’ – a girl starting puberty suddenly ends up covered in blood? Puberty hits the female body and all hell breaks loose. It’s a little hackneyed and I found myself rolling my eyes at the obviousness of it.
Through some town research the kids realise that terrible things happen every 27 years, which usually involves the deaths or disappearances of a lot of children. They figure out everything links back to an old well that dates back to the founding of the town as a mining camp. Where the well stood is now a big creepy, derelict, old house, which is where one of them previously saw Pennywise.
So Billy charges off thinking he’ll find Georgie, he persuades two of the others to go into the house with him; while they’re there, Billy spots the old well in the basement. They get separated, injured and all have to retreat. For a while, they disband, blaming Billy for nearly getting them all killed.
Billy and Beverly are a little sweet on each other, so they plan to meet up, however when trying to leave Beverly’s disgusting abusive father tries to stop her leaving and in the ensuing fight she clocks him around the head with the cistern lid from the toilet. Enter Pennywise, Exit Beverly. Billy gets suspicious when she doesn’t show to their meeting, heads to her flat, spots the dead dad and when he can’t find Beverly, concludes ‘it’ got her.
Billy rallies the troops who converge on the old creepy house and head for the well. Meanwhile, Beverly wakes up in a different kind of cistern, filled with junk, trophies, and floating corpses. And Pennywise, ‘the dancing clown’, whose dance in this scene was nothing short of ridiculous. Beverly tries to escape and gets caught, she says she’ll never be scared of Pennywise, which he needs to feed off of her fear. He makes her ‘float’ with some lights down his gullet.
When the boys arrive, they pull Beverly down and wake her up with a kiss (sigh) before the whole team beat up Pennywise, who starts to disintegrate (a la Infinity War) and falls down a further hole never to be seen again. After this, the floating corpses of all the kids who had gone missing start to come back down to the ground. One of the characters even shouts that they’re “floating back down” and there’s a shot that shows this. Next they’re all in a meadow a month or so later with Beverly telling of what she saw while she was floating (all of them, back in the cistern except older). What happened to the dead children? Did they tell any adults where they were? Were they retrieved and buried? What was the point of highlighting them floating back down and then paying no further attention to them? Why has Beverly waiting over a month to tell them all what she saw?
Finally, the Losers’ Club all swear a blood oath to come back if ‘it’ ever comes back too. Of course, they all slice their palms with broken glass, which is a ridiculously difficult place to heal sharp injuries and scars very easily. I bet none of them have scars in Chapter Two though. Beverly leaves the town to go live with her Aunt, Billy kisses her goodbye and the ominous words ‘Chapter One’ appear on screen.
It was entertaining with a few problems for me and that, given the hype and accolades it received, left me a bit disappointed. How much of that should be directed at the source material and how much directed at the film itself, I couldn’t say.