Stephen King’s It (Chapter One)

The long wait is over, and yesterday I finally got to see It (Chapter One) in a theater, and I’m very pleased with how the film turned out.

I’ve been a fan of Stephen King books for 40 years, having read them all, and back in 1986, when It was published, I was still in that mode of reading the latest release, in much the same way that we used to listen to our favorite band’s latest album when it came out every year.

It, the novel, was a groundswell for me. It had been three years since he’d written any of what I consider his classic novels, 1983’s Pet Semetary, and I was ready for something big. Well, if big was what I was looking for, I was not to be disappointed. Of King’s 57 novels, only The Stand is longer.

I loved the book, and I recall well the first time I encountered some of the high points of the story, Ben Hanscom in the bar with the lemons, Stan Uris in the bathtub, Beverly Marsh visiting the old lady in the house where she grew up. And then you had that ending, which I loved in the saddest of ways.

None of those things were in the movie I saw yesterday, because that movie only told the first part of the story.

Unlike King’s novel, which intersperses periods from when “The Losers Club” were kids and 30 years later, when they return to Derry to finish the job, the makers of the films decided to tell the story chronologically, with Chapter One telling the younger days and the older days left for Chapter Two, which is announced for 2019. Some purists might have a problem with this, but it’s fine with me. If it makes the story more accessible for movie-going audiences, then I’m all for it.

Stephen’s getting older and so am I, and he isn’t the big screen mainstay he was back in those classic years, when his latest effort went to the big screen with about the same regularity as the books were released. The last time I really looked forward to a big screen treatment of a King work was 2004’s Secret Window, starring Johnny Depp. But still, that was Secret Window; this was It. This was Pennywise.

And how was Pennywise? Pennywise was pretty excellent. The filmmakers, under the helm of director Andy Muschietti, forewent the jolly version of Pennywise that was part of Tim Curry’s range in the 1990 TV miniseries, and even when the demonic clown was trying to show his nice side, in order to attract children and feed on their fear, he was still pretty much a demonic clown. Plus, you could see the frail side of Pennywise, his addiction to the fear of children and his powerlessness to control it.

Still, the kids were the stars of the show. A couple of them were rather pedestrian but the ones who played Bill, Ben, Bev, and Richie were spot on. Compared to the seven actors who played the kids in the miniseries, I thought Finn Wolfhard, who stars in Netflix’ Stranger Things, was the most improved over his predecessor. I won’t bore you with the rest of the names, as you wouldn’t know them anyway.

And the writing for the kids was well done. King’s kids were set in 1958, a timeline shared with the TV treatment, but these kids were set in 1988, so the potty humor had to reflect that change. It did, and nothing seemed forced with the kids; they were written true to life and they played their roles well.

All in all, I was pleased with the outcome. It’s hard to be subjective (and scared), as I know both the book and the miniseries so well, but I think that if I were being exposed to the story for the first time I would find it interesting enough to want to come back for Chapter Two. More than that, I think it would have scared me, which is the true test of a horror film.

Above all, it’s good to see my favorite author getting at least one more chance in Hollywood’s limelight. Stephen’s turning 70 next week, and it’s been a long time since I was 22, and it’s good to know that this world of words that he has created, and which I have walked completely through, is still viable in the entertainment world. The film is breaking all of the box office records for September releases, which shows that not all things of interest have to be new or young, I take comfort in that.

Much love, dear readers. Thanks always for meeting me here.

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