Remaketober 2017 Week 1: IT

Hello ladies, gentlemen and anyone who subscribes to something else, and welcome to the greatest time the year: Remaketober! What is Remaketober, I hear you ask? Well each week of October, I will watch a horror movie and its remake(s). It's been an October tradition for me for years and I look forward to it all year. And this year I thought I would kick things off with the movie of the hour, Stephen King's It.


So, here then is my dirty little secret as a horror fan: I'm not really into Stephen King's books. Oh, he's a good writer and he's made some great stories, I've just never been able to get into his writing style. Something about it just keeps me at arm's length and I never get totally into it. So when I say It, a decades spanning, thousand plus pages, multi-part epic is one of the few King books I've actually read, it means something.

This 1990 miniseries is a particular, odd kind of bad movie. It has one central element that works so well that it outshines the rest of the movie in your memory, until, years later, all you can remember is that one element. Its only when you return to visit it again that you realize how much the rest of the movie doesn't work and is in conflict with the one element that kicks ass. And then the clown shows up again and I collapse into a sobbing wreck.

Yes, it seems odd to say about the movie that I still reference as the source of clowns being my major phobia, but overall, this miniseries just does not work. It, rather unwisely, attempts to jam together the entirety of the book, which was already overly long and wonkily paced, which just leads to an adaptation that's punishingly long at over 3 hours and never seems to build up much steam.

The big issue is trying to shove both the kids story and the adults story into the same movie and using a back and forth flashback style narrative, which just undercuts the tension and stretches everything out. We know none of the kids in the 1950s story are going to die because we see them as adults, so the tension just gets sucked out of the room.. Combined with the start-stop pacing of the story and the occasionally sucky special effects, and it's hard to take the majority of the film seriously.

If there's one thing worth keeping in the film, it's Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise, but he actually pinpoints one of the problems. Curry is not what we'd call a restrained performer but he works best when the entire movie goes along with him. The majority of the movie isn't over the top enough to contain Tim Curry and doesn't have the budget or skill to realize some of its better ideas. So while Curry is really excellent, and incredibly memorable, the rest of the movie just can't keep up.


The first and smartest decision this movie is to cut out the second half of the story and save it for a hypothetical sequel (although given that this movie has blown past 500 million and counting gross on a 35 million budget, that sequel is probably not hypothetical anymore). The kids story has always been the more compelling aspect of the story, since the adults story tends to get more mired in the cliches of Stephen King and just dragged down into stuff I don't care about.

This movie takes the bare bones of the kids storyline from the book, shifts it up to the 1980s (so that the adult story can take place in the modern day) and gives it a makeover.  It removes the monster-mashup style of Pennywise's attacks and creating original monsters to haunt the children, leaving a good portion of the movie pants-sh***ingly scary.

The movie still has flaws, mostly losing steam gradually in the second half and an ending that is a pretty obvious sequel hook, but it manages to improve in all the ways it counts. Even Bill Skarsgard manages to find a unique take on the character of Pennywise, and manages to be a compelling screen presence. The plot structure and acting are also big steps up from the 1990 original.

Of course, it is a little unfair to compare the movies, since the 2017 film is only telling half the story, and the more compelling half at that. The second half, with the adults and the weird underdeveloped cosmic horror stuff is a bit of a slog to get through and is much harder to realize on film. It's entirely possible that, when the sequel hits in a few years, it'll fail to stick the landing and retroactively make this version worse. But for now, this version is superior to the original and, since I still haven't given it a proper review and likely won't, high in the running for the best horror film of 2017 (although Get Out is ahead of it).

Next week, we pay homage to a recently departed director...something we'll be doing a lot this Remaketober...with a look at his greatest film and the stuff that came after it.

Elessar is a 27 year old Alaskan-born, Connecticut-based, cinephile with an obsession with The Room and a god complex.