By Mikolaj Puszcza-Szydlowski
Like many other horror fans, I looked forward to the release of the new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel, ‘It’—a story of a ‘gang’ of suburban 12 year olds, fighting one of the most memorable antagonists in horror literature, the titular demonic entity, embodying childhood fears, in the guise of Pennywise, the Dancing Clown.
It was widely anticipated and there has been quite a good amount of hype about it, even before it started shooting last year.
Originally it was set to be directed by Cory Fukananga, the man responsible for HBO’s True Detective, one of the most watchable television series of the last couple of years. The auteur’s creative ambitions must have been seen either as unrealistic or unfit for the studio’s business model, because Fukananga was dismissed from the project. He was then replaced by Andy Muschietti, an Argentinian filmmaker known for his Mama, a very average, formulaic jump scare, that has been met with mixed reviews.
King’s novel, counting over 1,000 pages, is a remarkable representation of the challenges of adolescence and the crisis of its identity, the impact unnecessary violence has on the human sanity, the importance of true friendship, the demons
within each one of us and much, much more. It is also just a really well-crafted novel, filled with a cast of extremely relatable characters.
One of the most horrifying aspects of the adaptation seems to be the degree to which it remains completely oblivious to the original material’s potential: ‘It’ is just really dull.
The visitations of the titular antagonist all happen in a very matter-of-fact manner, briefly interrupting the characters’ daily lives in a way that might remind younger audiences of Snapchat videos.
The scenes in which the characters are not haunted by the monstrosity are even worse: with the narrative depth of daytime soap operas, life in them somehow just keeps going on. The terror at hand is mentioned only briefly, for well over the first half of the picture and it seems to have no greater effect on the characters’ psyche.
The scares all follow the same unimaginative and clearly repetitive formula, where the antagonist is simply embodied in several different forms, each reflecting the fears of the protagonist he reveals himself to at the time. Even the way in which the heroes finally defeat him, is an extremely simplified version of the resolution present in the novel.
Fitting such a monumental novel in a two-hour film seems to be asking a lot, that is without doubt. Yet, there are ways in which the material could have served as a template for making the adaptation more in-depth and more ambitious.
The novel has been adapted for screen once before, as a 1987 television miniseries, starring Tim Curry in the main role. The film hasn’t aged very well, but it remains a classic for many fans of the genre, mostly because of nostalgia and the quirkiness of its making. The new version seems to be taking more from it than from the book: we do not get to see anything we haven’t seen
We could almost feel tempted to say that instead of watching the 2017 version, one would be better off seeing the old one and imagining how well it could be done with the opportunities that modern technology and new ways of storytelling provide.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars