I'm a huge fan of the 1990's TV film of "It", especially for its aesthetics and soundtrack, but it left out a lot of content from the original novel, leaving me confused when I first saw it at the age of 12. This remake, or perhaps actually a "re-adaptation", is certainly very timely, what with "Stranger Things" becoming so huge with pretentious hipsters everywhere. I'm still not sure it hits the "scary" factor very well, especially without Tim Curry's tremendous acting, but it's certainly creepy. It's not nostalgic though, nor does it retain much of the original novel, including the 50's setting, changed to the 80's to obviously market itself with "Stranger Things" and "The Goonies".
My problem with this new adaptation of "It" is that it's addled with CGI and jump scares, neither of which add to its nostalgic appeal. At the risk of sounding like a film snob, if you're trying to make a film set decades before this era, you don't use CGI at all if you can avoid it, unless you really know how to camouflage it. The constant profanity did nothing for the story either, it only gave the false illusion of being edgy. Yes, the book had profanity, but King knew where to draw the line and keep the perfect balance of immature vulgarity and true friendship. The sheer level of nerdiness here made me cringe, unlike the TV movie which had genuine friendships and sweet moments of love and joy amidst the horror, just like King's novel. Did one of those boys seriously just say "Get me my bifocals, I hid them in my second fanny pack"? What the hell kind of child wears bifocals? Why not just rename him Poindexter while they're at it? The kids in the book and the miniseries were never this obnoxiously dorky. And what's with all this New Kids on the Block stuff? There was a scene in which for no apparent reason all these close-ups of NKOTB posters pop up on-screen. Why? Just because earlier in the film a kid had been listening to that music? It made no sense! We get loads of terrible one liners from Richie comparing the blood in the sewers to "period blood" (lovely, eh?) and trust me, no way does any thirteen-year-old talk like this. All kids at that age swear and tell fart jokes and stuff, but even they have their limits.
Mike is only added as an afterthought, which seems borderline offensive, as if they only added him as a token minority whereas in the book and film he was such a complex, central character. He had a strong bond with his father that's totally absent from this film. Stan is unlikable, and the newly revamped Pennywise the Clown has teeth that could rival the most inbred hillbilly, and the most scary thing he seems to be able to do is hop around like some kind of wino. Uh yeah, real "spooky", I'm shaking in my boots.
Then we have the film's complete disregard for the friendship, the glue that holds the story together. Killing and gore and sex and violence and swearing is not what horror is about, it's about the darker side of life, and this film only portrays it in a cheesy slasher film type of way. I'm not trying to sound preachy, but where's the love and friendship between the characters? When it is there (which isn't very often) it feels forced. In the old miniseries, it felt authentic and true, and the kids were actually portrayed as kids, not young adults. This new film is completely void of the book's special qualities such as the "hi-ho Silver!" thing and Eddie's "battery acid" line. The film just doesn't have the stunning scenery that the miniseries had, either. The miniseries had an actual gothic revival pump house as the sewer building (the Buntzen Hydroelectric Station of British Columbia), and it was creepy and nostalgic and absolutely the perfect choice. It had nailed down the industrial small town in an economic slump kind of look perfectly, too. This film looks too clean for that, with CGI used in all the wrong places to create what looks like fake looking stage sets.
This film isn't completely terrible. It passes the time, but the only thing it has going for it is that the director thinks he has hit some 80's vibe gold mine when in reality it just looked like a bad video game full of childish jump scares. I was hoping it might be more like the 2012 film Sinister, a genuinely frightening and timeless boogeyman that leaves a subtle unsettling presence wherever it goes, but no, it just looked cheap and lazy, an obvious cash grab that's being WAY overhyped. A 7.5/10 rating, are you kidding me? Even King's 1995 notoriously bad film The Mangler was better than this! It's like with good marketing, this new film was able to pull the wool over everybody's eyes and fool them into thinking it was a classic masterpiece.