"Cinema Reel" logo. Cinema Reel is the title for Jonathon Potochnic's review column.

By Jonathon Potochnic

Stephen King is a household name thanks to his beautifully strange, detailed and terrifying writing. His writing is so impactful and visually resonant that it was only a matter of time before his books were going to be adapted to the screen.

Starting with “Carrie” in 1976, over 60 movies have been created based on his work. A few have released and accurately captured the pristine excellence of his books, including films like 1980’s “The Shining”, 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption”, 1999’s “The Green Mile” and 2007’s “The Mist”.

Despite these great successes, there have been more misses than hits when it comes to King adaptations. In fact, almost every King movie I didn’t previously state was a miss, specifically with the recent “The Dark Tower” adaption.

I’m happy to say that the newest Stephen King adaption, “IT”, is not in this group of failures, but surprisingly ranks among the very best.

“IT” takes place in the fictitious town of Derry, Maine, where the members of the Losers’ Club reside. Each member of the heavily mocked and bullied group is quirky in their own special way. One child is a history buff, spending his days at a library to suffice for a lack of friends. Another girl is constantly mocked for her well-known sexual behavior, which is suppressed compared to the book’s orgy-described relations.

What is most surprising about the “IT” movie is the amount of emotional depth given to each main character; this contributes to the films’ success. To save from a bloated runtime, “IT” intelligently chooses to supply its character exposition conservatively, saving time for the development of the antagonist.

This conservative structure doesn’t limit the emotional impact of the film. The innocence of the children and their internal demons are, at times, the most dark aspects of the movie.

Unsurprisingly, some of the characters take a backseat for most of the movie, but this never hindered my enjoyment of “IT”.

Another aspect of the film I did not anticipate was how wildly funny it was. “Stranger Things” actor Finn Wolfhard delivers a ridiculous amount of humor that consistently rung through any scene that didn’t feature the dancing clown. His hilarious adolescent vulgarity was yet another part of the screenplay that I hadn’t expected after viewing the horror-focused trailers.

The most memorable part of the film was Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Bill Skarsgård’s performance will not soon be forgotten; his stature and voice constantly haunted the runtime. The mood shifts every time he is in a scene. With a shocking tone-setter early in the film, Skarsgård’s grip never lets go of the audience, and I’m sure some still felt it even after the credits rolled.

The antagonist of “IT” is an accurate depiction of King’s brilliant source material as well. Pennywise is an embodiment of fear and caters to everyone because if you have fear, you’re at risk.

While the scariest part of the film is most likely the disturbing imagery, director Andrés Muschietti milks a remarkable amount of suspense out of almost every scene. Muschietti is yet another wonderful surprise about this movie. Despite only being his second film after 2013’s “Mama”, Muschietti directed this movie incredibly. The performances pulled from these terrified children, strong cinematography and sound design were all outstanding. Now that we’ve seen how talented he is, I will expect more skillful work from him in the future.

As for potential flaws, “IT” has a couple. Firstly, the CG is overused. The CG of “IT” is not bad, ranging from serviceable to superb, but considering the performance we received from Skarsgård, it is strange that so much of the clown isn’t shown on-camera.

Another problem I found was that the screenplay, at times, struggled to balance the ridiculous amount of humor and horror. This led to pacing issues and tone clashes, especially within the first half. I will also add that some of the secondary adult performances, with weird line deliveries and over-exaggeration, were off.

It is important to note, however, that in wake of all the exceptional things in “IT”, these flaws felt very small.

“IT” ranks among Stephen King’s best, primarily thanks to the top-notch acting by its leads, surprising humor, nightmarish imagery and a shocking amount of dramatic heft.

This movie had me from the very beginning. I was able to float because of a haunting Pennywise, and if you see “IT”, you’ll float too.

"IT" review scorecard. "9.1/10. Brilliantly terrifying and emotionally resonant, IT is one of 2017's best films. Pros: The Losers' Club and Pennywise. Cons: Excessive CG and poor pacing.

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