The Lucky Seven Rides Again
Despite mostly bad reviews of the 2017 remake of Stephen King’s “It” I enjoyed the film. There are some spoilers ahead. Even though I have been a fan of Tim Curry for many years I have to say that Bill Skarsgard who brought the killer clown, Pennywise back to life was the creepier of the two. When you see Tim Curry and the wicked smile he gives to all of his characters, you expect them to be wicked. Skarsgard's normally handsome face and bright blue eyes is disarming enough to bring the actor who plays Georgie close to him even if he wasn’t holding the paper boat he’d sailed in the rain. The makeup team did a wonderful job in making him both look sincere and sinister. The cinematographers and special effects team really deserve the applause.
Pennywise’s face seem to melt/morph into rows and rows of circular razor sharp teeth like some freaky starfish tentacled alien while his eyes became a sickly reddish yellow. If the R rating wasn’t clear enough the teeth will soon allow viewers to know this isn’t your parents Pennywise.
The movie begins with a similar flow as the original with Georgie’s interaction with Pennywise in the sewer. The difference between Skarsgard and Curry is that his version of Pennywise can cause more than just visual and auditory hallucinations. The character was suddenly able to not only hear the circus but could smell the circus even above the rain and the sewer.
The movie also makes it clear from the very beginning that the adults are either so grief stricken over their children or they are at least somewhat controlled by Pennywise. To make matters worse for the kids who have to make the terrible trek into the sewers of Derry to battle Pennywise, its the 1980s, not the 1950s. The trouble these kids get into without an evil monster set to devour kids is more intense than what children in the 50s were used too. Where the kids of the 50s were used to bullies they were more isolated from the horrors of the outside world.
This is also something the writers want to make clear. Even though the Jonathan Brandis version of Bill sent his brother off to merrily play in the rain without a car in the world, this newer Bill sends Georgie off with a walkie talkie. They are also closer than the original Bill and Georgie. The hug Georgie gives Bill is happily reciprocated unlike the “Get off me, Little Cootie,” that Brandis imparts in the television adaptation.
These children also use foul language and are slightly older than the eleven year olds in the television movie as revealed by the slut shaming Beverly receives despite having not slept with anyone at the school, although the violence the character faces at home is more macabre than the television adaptation revealed. Beverly has her own set of bullies. While the original Greta only made snide comments about Beverly being poor, the modern adaptation treats her like the school’s whore.
The other kids come with their own special set of problems too. Since its no longer the 1950s, we do not have to suffer through Henry Bowers’ racist rants against Mike and Stan but Stan wants to fit in and be normal. However, he’s the Rabbi’s son and has a lot of pressure on him to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah. His mind on the bullying of Henry Bowers and how he’d rather be having fun earns the disappointment of his father. Stan is the first (not the last) in the remake to encounter something he thinks he imagined. It’s weird that the painting that seems to come alive and attempt to attack Stan looks a lot like the ghost that haunts Earl Warren in the Conjuring Part 2.
For Mike, he’s an outsider. He’s homeschooled by his grandfather and was witness to the death of his parents in a fire. Since he saw the agony of his parents burning alive as they tried to rescue him, he has an aversion to death. His grandfather, ironically is Steven Williams, who was a hunter named Rufus on Supernatural. He wants Mike to join him in the family business and learn to use the bolt action gun to kill lambs (a reference to both Silence of the Lambs & the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) but he refuses too. Grandpa warns Mike that in life you can either be a man or a sheep and at some point in his life someone is going to make the choice for him and he’d end up dead.
Ritchie is a weird gamer kid who is obsessed with sex and impressions but he’s not as big a part of the early interactions of the club as his predecessor played by Seth Green. The actor actually looks a lot like a very young Corey Feldman. He’s also less of a target of Henry and his friends than Bill and Mike. Henry also gives Bill a pass because of his brother.
The odd thing about Henry is that his father is not a drunk, poor farmer. He’s actually a police officer and on patrol at the school which saves Bill since he overheard Bill tell Henry, “he sucked.” Henry is also stopped from shooting his father’s service weapon at Belch and a cat by his father. It remains true to the original story that Henry is abused by his father because in response to Henry pointing the gun at Belch he fires three rounds at his feet. Officer Bowers then warns the others about the difference of a real man and a paper man.
Unlike the original Bill believes that Georgie is simply missing and the memorable scene where he stands in the Barrens in tears and shouts, “You killed my brother, George, you bastard. Let’s see you now.” Bill is actually one of the last in the modern adaptation to be visited by Pennywise and realizes that the reason Pennywise has to separate them is because its afraid of them.
Had the kids been of their age group at a time when Supernatural was popular it would explain, at least to me, the belief in the fact that iron and not silver could kill Pennywise. However, the movie was set in 1988/1989 decades past the time of black and white horror were the belief was that beings like Lon Chaney Jr Wolfman could be killed with silver. Another interesting thing is that when Ben is attacked by Henry and they attempt to patch him up, Eddie goes off on a rant about the AIDS epidemic which was probably his mom’s favorite rant since 50s mom was worried about cancer.
Another difference is that Ben is the history nerd and discovers the connection to the mysterious deaths and disasters. He’s the one who brings it to the club about the gap in the murders. He also reveals that violent deaths are 6x more likely to happen to adults in Derry than in any other place in the world and kids were even worse. To which Mike reveals the secret that his grandfather has that causes him to be homeschooled and kept as much away from Derry proper as possible. Grandpa believes that Derry is haunted by something evil that he can’t quite place.
The connection and tribute this movie plays to other films continues with the bloody bathroom scene with Beverly. Instead of a bloody balloon popping in the sink the whole room explodes in a bloody mess leaving the actress and the room drenched in blood like the prom scene of Carrie!
It’s interesting to note that the steadfast solidarity that the kids showed in the original is not repeated in the remake. The kids have their own personalities and their own fears that allow them not to blindly follow their friend to further stalk an evil creature intent to devour them. Bill and Ritchie even come to blows. The movie offers a montage where the kids began to overcome the fears that they had and overcome them. Stan is able to successfully master Hebrew so that he can read his passage from the Torah. Mike overcomes his aversion to being an outsider who can not take up for himself. He learns he wants to be a man and not someone who stands passively by while bad things happen to other people. Bill also comes face to face with the ghost of Georgie and the idea develops in his head that Pennywise is holding him hostage. As he attempts to gather his friends for a rescue mission, Beverly’s dad attempts to rape her while under possession of Pennywise. When she is able to defend herself against her father Pennywise kidnaps her and leaves a cryptic message for Bill to find. Beverly’s kidnapping seems to be the breaking point the boys need to gather all the iron they can find to rescue her. All the practice Mike has had using the bolt gun to help his grandfather slaughter animals on the farm is revealed to be his weapon of choice for hunting Pennywise.
When Beverly reveals she had a vision or a dream about all of them as adults coming back together and being the only ones who can see Pennywise Bill makes them all swear that if they didn’t kill it and it comes back in 27 years like he had been doing for hundreds of years that they would come back. Beverly admits that since she’s leaving to stay with her aunt some of her memories are already starting to fade. That’s why she admits to being confused about things that happened or if everything that happened was a dream. They take a blood oath to return despite the fact that many of them had been reluctant to go back and finish him off initially.
Chapter 2 has been schedule for a 2019 release and they have only confirmed officially that Skarsgard will reprise his role.
© 2018 Kristina Stancil