Stephen King’s ‘IT’ Review Round-Up: What The Critics Are Saying

IT-Pennywise-King-MuschettiThe first full reviews for director Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s IT have hit the web.

The latest adaptation of Stephen King’s classic horror novel was met with enthusiastic first reactions, but full reviews of the film are slightly more critical of the movie’s structure and there is little consensus on the overall effectiveness of the jump scares. With many positive comparisons to the 1986 film Stand by Me, another Stephen King adaptation, the performances of the young cast have received near universal acclaim.

You can check out a round-up of what the critics are saying below.

The Hollywood Reporter’s John Defore:

“Its biggest challenges are finding a group of kid thesps with chemistry, and making its eponymous villain as creepy as Tim Curry was in the well-liked 1990 miniseries adaptation. Succeeding more on the first front than the second, It is a solid thriller that works best when it is most involved in its adolescent heroes’ non-monster-related concerns. It will prove much more satisfying to King’s legion of fans than Tower did. But it falls well short of the King-derived film it clearly wants to evoke, Stand By Me; and newcomers who were spoiled by the eight richly developed hours of Stranger Things may wonder what the big deal is supposed to be.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty:

“‘It’ is essentially two movies. The better by far (and it’s very good) is the one that feels like a darker ‘Stand by Me’ — a nostalgic coming-of-age story about seven likable outcasts riding around on their bikes and facing their fears together. Part of me kept waiting for a voice-over from Richard Dreyfuss: ‘And that was the best summer of my life…’ Less successful are the sections that trot out Pennywise. The more we see of him, the less scary he becomes. Unless you’re really afraid of clowns, he just seems kind of cartoony after a while.”

Forbes’ Scott Mendelson:

“It is a monumental disappointment. Andy Muschietti’s picture banks on nostalgia for the original 1990 ABC miniseries and for the idealized childhood experiences represented in films like The Goonies and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. What’s most shocking about the picture is that, even with 135 minutes to tell the novel’s “childhood” portion, Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman’s adapted screenplay manages to contain less substance, less context and less primal dread than the comparative portions of the previous “safe for network television” adaptation. I would gladly admit that the first cinematic try at It has shown its age, which is why I’m shocked that this new variation isn’t at least as good.”

The New York Times’ A. O. Scott:

“The new movie, a skillful blend of nostalgic sentiment and hair-raising effects, with the visual punch of big-screen digital hocus-pocus and the liberties of the R rating, still has the soothing charm of familiarity. The gang of misfit ’80s kids who face down the clown and the deeper horror he represents evoke both the middle school posse of the recent TV series ‘Stranger Things’ (there’s some overlap in the cast), but also the intrepid brotherhood from ‘Stand by Me,’ surely one of the all-time top five Stephen King movie adaptations…The filmmakers honor both the pastoral and the infernal dimensions of Mr. King’s distinctive literary vision. Derry, with its redbrick storefronts and its quirks and kinks, seems like a genuinely nice place to live in spite of the fact that its citizens, children in particular, turn up missing or maimed at an alarming rate.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips:

“The larger question is one of rhythm, and the diminishing returns of one jump scare after another. Director Muschietti’s film is afflicted by a weird case of clutter; nearly every scene begins and ends the same way, with a slow build, a vulnerable child in a cellar or an old, dark house, a violent, bloody confrontation (either in the everyday bullying sequences, which are psychotically vicious, or in the Pennywise appearances) leading up to a KAAA-WHUMMMMMM!!!! sound effect. Such familiar tactics will likely ensure a healthy box office return (the movie’s expected to make $70 million opening weekend), but the result plays like an Olympic hurdles event, with a really, really long track.”

The Guardian’s‘ Peter Bradshaw:

“But the problem is that almost everything here looks like route one scary-movie stuff that we have seen before: scary clowns, scary old houses, scary bathrooms. In their differing ways, Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick were inspired by the potency of King’s source material to create something virulently distinctive and original. This film’s director, Andy Muschietti, can’t manage quite as much.”

USA Today’s Brian Truitt:

“Though it’s a little long and doesn’t perfectly execute its grand ambitions, the movie emphasizes the story’s nuanced coming-of-age sentiment rather than being all horror, all the time, capturing the low-key brilliance of King’s writing.”

Indie Wire’s Erik Kohn:

“Littered with beautiful imagery, absorbing soundscapes, and adorable pre-teens facing unspeakable terror, “It” is Stephen King crack. The iconic plight of “The Losers Club,” the self-titled group of outcasts who realize the Pennywise has quietly murdered locals and preyed on their fears for decades while keeping most adults under its spell, unfolds much as the novel — even as it simplifies its appeal with jump scares.”

Collider’s Matt Goldberg:

“[…] Andy Muschietti’s partial adaptation of Stephen King’s novel (it adapts the first half of the story) firmly puts its empathy on the part of its young protagonists with “IT” as a terrifying monster, but one who repulses rather than entices. Rather than give into its audience’s bloodlust, IT is far more concerned with the trauma, both real and imagined, that its heroes will have to face in order to defeat a creature who feeds on fear. Vibrant, confident, and overflowing with a surprising amount of emotion, IT is almost everything you could want from a modern horror film.”

CinemaBlend’s Eric Eisenberg:

“The narrative flow of the film isn’t perfectly balanced, with some characters’ arcs getting more significantly time than others (Mike notably shows up early in the film and then doesn’t reappear until around the midpoint), but it remains nonetheless impressive how the story builds around its leads. While part of the structure is certainly built around having each member of The Losers Club have their own personal experiences as victims of IT’s unique brand of terror inducement (some taken straight from the novel; others fresh and original), it never actually feels structured, and instead has a fantastic flow that keeps you ever fearful for the heroes’ lives as you learn more and more about what’s really happening.”

IGN’s William Bibbiani:

“IT spends a significant amount of its lengthy running time on each of The Losers’ Club’s personal experiences with Pennywise in sequences that are perfectly horrifying, if slightly repetitive. The formula begins to show itself as each child faces down their biggest phobia with similar resolutions, in succession: everyone has a distinct moment to wander off alone, look at the thing that scares them (a creepy painting, their own body, debilitating disease, and yes, even clowns) and then watch as that thing is warped to disturbing proportions by Pennywise. But even if you notice the pattern, each set piece is each different enough to be scary, and every character needs at least one moment to scream in terror.”

We Got This Covered’s Matt Donato:

“Muschietti hits upon the heart of Stand By Me and the horror of Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake (seriously, that basement water scene is almost a straight rip). Rock fights and sunny cliff-diving escapes draw the children together, because the tighter their bond, the more meaningful their actions become. These scenes chew up a 135-minute running length, unleashing Pennywise in smaller bursts. This isn’t a slasher flick or found footage affair. You’re here for a near-perfect cast of adolescent actors who continually lament about their summer days being wasted on dangerous creature hunting. Their foul-mouthed enthusiasm and hawk-a-loogie competitions ever the generational time machine. Without these characters finding strength, It is worthless.”

Den of Geek’s Don Kaye:

“By focusing on the children, their relationships with each other and their parents, and the way each of them deals with both the encroachment of death and adulthood, It dives into the kind of character development rarely seen in modern horror fare. We care about each member of the Losers Club, we laugh with them (there is a surprising amount of humor in the movie) and perhaps even cry; their experiences together in that summer of 1988 (in another wise move, the writers and director have moved the story forward by 30 years, with minimal impact) — first love, finding real friends, getting terrorized by the neighborhood bullies — feel real and relatable, making the introduction of supernatural evil more believable and their suffering at Its hands more powerful.”

Are you excited to see the latest take on Stephen King’s book and weigh in on the conversation for yourself? Share your thoughts below!

Directed by Andy Muschietti, the film stars Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Olef, Jack Grazer, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, and Bill Skarsgård.

Based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel. A group of young kids face their biggest fears when they seek answers to the disappearance of children in their hometown of Derry, Maine. They square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.

IT will be released in theaters on September 8, 2017.

10 Stephen King Adaptations Hollywood Needs To Get Right

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Stephen King ItWith The Dark Tower and It, two of King’s most famous and beloved works, reaching the big screen, it feels like the gates are opening on a new age of Stephen King adaptations

Already we’ve seen 1) a new Carrie movie, 2) Under the Dome and 11/22/63 get TV adaptations 3) Netflix’s upcoming Gerald’s Game, 4) a TV series based on the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, 5) Josh Boone looks to make Revival his follow-up to X-Men: The New Mutants, 5) a new version of Hearts in Atlantis is in the works (just called Hearts) and 6) a Cujo remake, with the amazing title of C.U.J.O. Even Cell got made, plus a personal favorite of mine The Mist is back in the form of a new Syfy series airing later this year (based on both the original novella and Frank Darabont’s superb 2007 film).

Our age of cinematic universes feels tailor-made for the world-renowned author. King is known not only for his productivity but for how his stories interlock together in the same universe (multiverse, if you want to get specific). His entire oeuvre is connected by characters, locations, and events, all centered around the literal and figurative Dark Tower, the structure and book series sit at the center of King’s worlds. Of course, no one entity owns the rights to all of King’s works, so we won’t be seeing, say, Pennywise the Dancing Clown say hi to Idris Elba’s gunslinger in a movie anytime soon, but it speaks to King’s continued relevance.

There are, of course, the adaptations that are sacrosanct and need to no update, plus others where we are simply waiting to see if they happen. Speaking of Darabont, he delivered a trilogy of amazing King adaptations in my opinion between The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist. Rob Reiner also mastered the artform, giving us Stand by Me and Misery. There’s already a perfectly-good The Dead Zone movie and TV show. The Tommyknockers and Desperation got the miniseries treatment in 1991 and 2006, respectively. The latter came with a teleplay by King himself, while the former was announced for a new miniseries back in 2013 along with Rosemary’s Baby, the failure of which may have something to do with the radio silence since the announcement. The Shining is actually not one, with King famously disliking the Stanley Kubrick film enough to make a miniseries of his own to “correct” the record (and a Shining prequel is first on our list).

While some works defy or seek re-adaptation, the breadth of the man’s work means there’s plenty of new stuff to mine in the coming years as well. Click Next to learn which to watch out for!

Honorable mentions: The Dark Half, Dolores Claiborne, Apt Pupil, Dreamcatcher

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Sebastian Peris

Sebastian Peris

Canadian film lover, comic book geek, political junkie and board game enthusiast.