Blu-ray Review: It (2017)

By , Contributor
It, the second filmed adaptation of Stephen King's popular bestselling horror novel, positively cleaned up at the box office in the fall of 2017 ($700 million worldwide). But in addition to financial good graces, it was also hailed as one of the finest King adaptations ever made—and for good reason. It's funny, freaky, and chock full of great performances. Director Andy Muschietti expanded upon his somewhat limited resume (which includes the 2013 Jessica Chastain-starrer Mama) to come up with an ace supernatural horror thriller.

In a way, I might personally be among the most specified target demographic for It 2017: I never read the novel, I never saw the 1990 TV movie, and I have never seen the Netflix series Stranger Things. The latter, I'm told, mines the same '80s nostalgia quite effectively and as a result there have been many comparisons drawn. So if you're going into this It without any preconceived expectations at all, you just might find it a perfectly entertaining killer clown flick. It's not deep, but aspects of it cannily create the illusion of depth.

Take the gang of kids, the so-called "Loser's Club," who live in the fictional Maine town of Derry. The main one, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), is perpetually haunted by the disappearance of his brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott, whose fate we witness in the film's chilling opening sequence). Then there's Stan (Wyatt Oleff), the Jewish kid who doesn't have much vested in his upcoming bar mitzvah (much to his father's dismay). Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) lives with an overbearing mom who has made him a victim of Munchausen by proxy. "New kid" Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is overweight and tormented by violent bullies. No one in the "Loser's Club" has it worse than Bev (Sophia Lillis), the sole female in the group and a victim of intense psychological and sexual abuse by her father. 
rsz_it_sophia_lillis.jpg The manifestation of all their fears is an evil shape-shifting entity whose favored physical form is that of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. This entity, "It," is portrayed with exacting menace by Bill SkarsgÄrd. The entity emerges from Derry's sewer system every 27 years to prey upon the town's children. Among the weaker elements of It is a general failure to define what the boundaries of It/Pennywise's supernatural abilities really are. Sometimes the demon seems omniscient and capable of being anywhere it desires in a moment. Other times, when the plot calls for it, It is clunky and slow. And It's weakness brings to mind the same weakness discovered in Freddy Krueger in the inimitable Nightmare on Elm Street series.

In a movie loaded with richly-drawn characterizations, the whole thing is stolen handily by Sophia Lillis. This 15-year-old actress is definitely one to keep an eye on. Her portrayal of broken, stolen innocence feels like the product of a wiser, older soul.

Warner Bros.' Blu-ray edition boasts three strong featurettes, each running about 15 minutes: "Pennywise Lives!," "The Losers' Club," and best of all "Author of Fear" (featuring Stephen King discussing his novel). There's also 15 minutes of deleted scenes. An It sequel is due next year.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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