Why do a remake?
Because you can make money. If you do it well. In a lot of cases a younger generation didn’t see the original so you’re opening the story to a whole new audience that have no idea that John Boy Walton already did a version. I like to think about a third of you even just googled “John Boy Walton” because you had no idea who he is.
And whether you like it or not there have been some great remakes. Point Break (2015) isn’t one of them, and that alone might be a good enough argument that they are bad. But did you know Scarface (1983) was a remake? You’re reading a movie blog, so maybe you are clued up and know that. I’m not disclosing the world’s best kept secrets or anything. But the original came out in 1932, and is a bit shit by modern standards. Cape Fear (1991), The Thing (1982), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), and The Fly (1986), are just a handful of examples right off the dome. And I’m really glad they exist, because what kind of world would we live in if there were no “Ruprect” references to be made?
Probably strikingly similar to the one we live in now, but as I’ve pointed out before, this is the internet so we need to get some hyperbole in to every article, otherwise we get taxed by the overstatement police. Or whatever the customs and revenues officer equivalent would be in this clumsy digression.
The point is that with remakes, much like any other piece of art, some are good and some are shit. But we like to be able to argue about which is better because it can be done with so little research. All you need to do is see both versions then you have a direct comparison, so it takes about 4 hours to be able to form an expert opinion. Book versus film takes a little longer because you have to read a whole book. So in my case I also have to wait for hell to freeze over before I can even turn the first page.
What I’m not going to do here is a like for like comparison of 2017’s It and the 1990 mini series. Except to say this… I think it’s pretty funny that they are 27 years apart, which the same time between the disappearances in the story.
And I was never particularly scared by the original. I guess I was just a pretty cool kid. I saw RoboCop (1987) for the first time when I was 6, and I once did a wheelie all the way from my house to Josh’s house.
I’m sure I probably was scared whilst watching it, because fuck me, Tim Curry is a frightening mother-fucker. Not only was he considered too scary to play The Joker and Judge Doom in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), respectively. But I also once walked in on him fucking my mother, when I was not expecting that to happen. Frightening.
My issue with a lasting impression from a horror film is how it ends. In the 1990 version he turns into a space spider, Seth Green turns his inhaler into battery acid Super Soaker, and the Jewish kid blesses some marbles so they hit with the full force of Moses’s wrath*.
It’s a happy ending, which is fine, some horrors films need a happy ending. But the space spider, what the fuck was that about? You spend three hours showing us how scary this clown is, and then inside he’s space spider… Well, I’m not scared of this space spider, I have no frame of reference for how afraid of space spiders I should be. The clown can get inside your head and create scenarios involving your biggest fears. Does the space spider do that now he’s a space spider? Or is that his ultimate form of intimidation? Sure, he can stab me with a leg, or bite me, or wrap me in a cocoon, but none of those things scare me. Steve Guttenburg hangs out with cocoon people, I’d love to meet him.
This is already way more than I wanted to talk about the original. Essentially all I’m saying is it ended so poorly it negated the rest of the film.
Without giving too much away, there is a slightly better ending to this version. Again, I’m not divulging secrets by saying there will be a sequel, but they talk about having to come back in 27 years in case Pennywise returns. And if you are familiar with the original, or the book (cough, nerd, cough), then you’ll already know there’s a flashback element to it, so yes, Pennywise will come back.
Unless Pennywise doesn’t return in 2016 (this one is set in 1989), and they spend two hours reminiscing about this summer, with their memories now a little faded about the precise events. If by any chance this article gets read by the writers for the sequel, here is some suggested dialogue you can use, gratis, I don’t even want a writing credit…
“Yeah, I remember that summer, during those couple of weeks when we weren’t talking, and from narrative context it didn’t seem like there was a lot of freaky clown shit going on, I saw Batman like eight times. Fuck that’s a good film. Do you reckon Batman v Superman will be any good? The trailer looks amazing.”
I’ve never had a screenplay accepted before.
Ben Hanscom: Derry is not like any town I’ve been in before. People die or disappear, six times the national average. And that’s just grown ups. Kids are worse. Way, way worse.
As with all reviews of movies currently in theatres, I’m going to try not to give too much away. So here are some musings of things I would do to improve the film. Hopefully some of these will stick with you and it’ll be like a directors cut that only you are watching.
The studio-card-fade-to-opening-rainy-shot is accompanied by the typical audio of a little Victorian girl singing a creepy song while playing hopscotch. In A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) it’s that slow “One… two… Freddy’s coming for you…”, and I can’t think of other specific examples which is really annoying, but you know the style. Here she is singing “Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements”. It’s a nonsense nursery rhyme about seven churches in London, which ends alluding to an executioner chopping off someone’s head. It has absolutely nothing to do with the film, but that slow pace makes it haunting, supposedly. You could put any lyrics in there with the same arrangement and it would still sound creepy. Personally I imagined it as “Naa…naa…na-naaa-na… get-ting… jig-gy with it…”
The whole first five minutes is a delightful build up to the first meeting with Pennywise. But all I was interested in was what I’d already seen in the first teaser trailer at 25 seconds. The prolonged set-up made the pay-off so much more satisfying, and will be my vote for funniest scene of 2017 in this year’s Cinenarc Movie Awards.
Spooky balloon! Oh my god I love spooky balloon. Several years ago on a Sunday afternoon my good friend Tali and I were working behind the bar, nursing hangovers with a few shots of Mini Guinness, when we were approached by our own spooky balloon. There had been a party in the bar the night before, and a solitary helium balloon had gotten stuck on the ceiling. Helium is an extremely small atom that will gradually escape through the pores of the latex balloon. So eventually the weight of the string balances out. This just so happened to be at around 2pm. It dropped noticeably at the other end of the empty venue from where we were sat waiting for customers. It stood there for about a minute or so while we laughed at it for trying to freak us out. Then with the through-flow of wind from the open garden door and open front entrance, it glided toward us, the string gently dragging on the floor. The balloon was about 5 foot off the floor.
This is no word of a lie, the string “climbed” up three steps to the main bar and stopped directly behind my head. This is back when I had hair, so there’s a chance it was attracted by static, but Tali and I started to genuinely freak out, intermittently with laughing. It stayed there for a minute or so, floated right up to the ceiling, dropped back down, then darted out the front door.
Ever since then any time I see a spooky balloon I take a picture and send it to her. They’re more common than you think.
So in the three or four occasions that there’s a spooky balloon in the film leading someone somewhere, or charging at someone, it’s nothing to be afraid of, Derry is just a party town. There was a hen-do there last night. That probably explains the clown make up as well. Pennywise is really just a still-drunk-and-confused bridesmaid. Which, if you’ve ever worked behind a bar, is exponentially more terrifying concept than a fanged-clown. That’s not even hyperbole, dem bitches cray-cray.
Which is short for “Crayola Crayons”.
One of the kids breaks his arm, which is funny for two reasons. Firstly, it happens after jumping back from Pennywise and falling through the floor, as he lies there his alarm goes off to remind him to take his meds. Shame on the writers for not having his alarm go off mid-attack so he could hold a finger up to Pennywise, breaking the action, take out his pill-box, ask if there’s any water, then awkwardly dry swallow it down. Then get back to him being thrown through the floor, look down and see his broken arm with a trombone sad-sack sound effect to go along with it.
Secondly, there’s several scenes of him wearing a cast that have their own light-hearted moments. But when they all get back together to go on their final mission he comes running down his front stoop, and there’s a split second where he stops in front of the camera showing off his cast. How they didn’t take the time for him to pull a Fast & Furious 7 (2015) style The Rock moment, and have this little kid flex his arm so hard that the cast shatters… Just a gut-punch of a missed opportunity.
One problem I had throughout the film is the phrase “we all float down here”. Every time it came up in any variance it took me out of the movie to try to work out what it means or why it’s scary. I know its supposed to be scary but only because it’s a quotable phrase. It’s Pennywise’s catchphrase. The first time he says it is when he’s down the drain, holding the little kid’s paper boat. So in that context am I supposed to think that everyone floats like a boat? Or because he’s got balloons, do people float like balloons?
If it’s the first, then presumably there’s an abnormally high salt content of the water in the sewers, like in the Dead Sea. Why is the sewer water so salinized? Do the inhabitants of Derry have shockingly high salt-rich diets? Mass diabetes would certainly explain why their mortality rate is six times higher than the national average, as we’re told**.
If it’s the second reason, I hope he’s coating these kids in an especially thick latex. There’s a severe decline in the world’s resources of helium at the moment, we can’t be wasting our precious stock on this freaky clown constantly topping up his kidnapped victims.
Georgie: Bill? If you’ll come with me, you’ll float too.
Bill Denbrough: Georgie?
Georgie: You’ll float, too, you’ll float, too, you’ll float, too… YOU’LL FLOAT, TOO!
Bill Skarsgård is a fantastically unsettling Pennywise, although I fear there’s going to be some backlash in the near future when large swaths of movie-goers develop a subconscious hatred for anyone afflicted with a lazy eye. It’s subtle, but absolutely perfect for adding a touch of extra creepy to the already disturbing clown make-up.
And the main cast of kids are excellent. I’m not a huge fan of children in general, and when one pops up in a film it makes me pretty anxious that they’re going to fuck it up with bad acting and take me out of the story. But they all came to play. Especially Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) not only does he have the best character in terms of empathy, but he’s a really engaging actor, who I hope doesn’t suffer from either the curse of the child actor, or end up yo-yoing his weight like Jonah Hill. That seems stressful for the poor lad.
Each of the main cast were asked who they would like to play the older versions of them in It: Chapter Two. The girl picked Jessica Chastain, which is fine, but I honestly spent the first five minutes of her screen time thinking that they had digitally young-ified Amy Adams, like they did for RDJ in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Michael Douglas in Ant-Man (2015). I couldn’t work out why they would do this, so eventually concluded that it wasn’t her. Obviously that is a list of some of the biggest (handsomest) names in Hollywood***, Christian Bale, Chris Pratt etc, but I think first refusal should be given to the actors who played the kids in the original, so then we can edit them together. If only to piss off Richard Linklater by dwarfing the accomplishment of his 12-year waste of time Boyhood (2014).
The film on the whole is fantastic. Horror films, much like comedy films typically struggle to maintain the same level of quality if they’re longer than an hour and a half. Big Movie worked that out a long time ago which is why you’ll rarely find either genre going over the 90 minute mark. It’s with that in mind I’d say “It” is less of a horror film, and more of an adventure film that has some genuinely terrifying moments. The characters are predominantly unsupervised, and the only interactions we see with any of their parents it is to antagonise one of the heroes. It almost feels like it’s paying homage to Stranger Things (2016-) which is in turn obviously paying homage in part to the original “It”. Amongst other things.
It’s cyclical homage. One hand washes the other.
*This is from memory, I haven’t watched it in years, so no need to write in corrections.
**I’m aware that salt intake isn’t directly related to the cause of diabetes. But if an ex-girlfriend ever hears me admitting that then I’ll lose an argument from 1998. So hopefully Lucy is out there somewhere googling me and finding this article, but ignores the asterisks.
***If anyone wants to make a movie of my life, Stanley Tucci is the only person I’ll sign off on.