Scares but where did the sto­ry­line go?

Upper Hutt Leader - - WHAT’S ON -


Wel­come to Stephen King World, circa the 1980s.

We’re in a small town in Maine, of course. It’s a land­scape of weath­ered white clap­board houses, Mo­mand Pop con­ve­nience stores and phar­ma­cies, movie houses show­ing only films that con­tain some jokey ref­er­ence to an­other Stephen King adap­ta­tion and where groups of friends get around in gangs of four, prefer­ably on BMXbikes, while flee­ing from the neigh­bour­hood bul­lies.

Put like that, It never was much more than a hor­ror re­write and ex­pan­sion of King’s The Body – the novella which was adapted for the screen as Stand By Me – but with the in­sight and nu­ance of the ear­lier book re­placed by a psy­cho­pathic clown who dwells in the sew­ers of the town.

Eight­ies King was never ex­actly sub­tle in his metaphors.

On the page, It is an en­gross­ing enough char­ac­ter study of four mid­dle-aged men look­ing back to the hor­rific events of 27 years ear­lier, when a host of school-age chil­dren went miss­ing at the hands of said clown.

The book has been adapted once be­fore, in 1990, as a four-hour minis­eries of fluc­tu­at­ing qual­ity. The se­ries re­tained the present/past for­mat, but dis­carded most of the 1100-page novel’s sub-plots. I do like the sym­me­try with which this sec­ond adap­ta­tion of It has been re­leased, 27 years af­ter the TV se­ries. But there most of my ad­mi­ra­tion for this film ends.

Direc­tor An­dres Muschi­etti ( Mama) and his writ­ers – in­clud­ing the ter­rif­i­cally tal­ented Carey Fuku­naga ( Beasts of No Na­tion) – have also thrown out most of what makes the book mem­o­rable, that is the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the char­ac­ters, in favour of a col­lec­tion of set pieces dur­ing which a kid ei­ther does or doesn’t get killed.

The film deals only with the child­hood-set part of the book – which is prob­a­bly wise – but never re­ally es­tab­lishes the cast as any­thing other than a small se­lec­tion of over-fa­mil­iar Stephen King reg­u­lars.

There’s the nerd, the fat kid, the trou­bled or­phan and, in­evitably, the slightly older and more worldly girl who the boys are left free to ob­jec­tify and project their fan­tasies on to.

Af­ter the stu­pen­dously good se­ries Stranger Things – which paid homage to King as much as it did Steven Spiel­berg – It seems more than a lit­tle re­dun­dant. While Stranger Things knew ex­actly how and when to up­date and gen­tly mock its in­spi­ra­tions, this It just puts a bul­let-point read­ing of half of the book on- screen with­out com­ment or in­sight.

It con­tains a num­ber of ef­fec­tive set-pieces and scares (al­though not nearly as many as last month’s Annabelle: Creation man­aged in a shorter run­ning time), but it re­ally doesn’t hang to­gether as a nar­ra­tive.

The gang meet up, get into a scrape with the clown, run away and then meet again a week or a month later to re­peat the se­quence.

One thing hap­pens af­ter an­other in a more or less co­her­ent se­quence, but that’s a pretty un­de­mand­ing def­i­ni­tion of a plot. It is prob­a­bly just about enough of a movie to send you home af­ter the screen­ing not quite grum­bling that you’ve wasted your money.

In­stead of a two-hour plus film, surely this book was – and al­ways has been – cry­ing out for the full 12-part TV se­ries treat­ment, with ev­ery char­ac­ter arc and nu­ance of story treated with re­spect and de­vel­oped to the full.

Know­ing that will prob­a­bly now never hap­pen made it im­pos­si­ble for me to re­ally en­joy It much at all. Still, Stranger Things’ sec­ond sea­son starts soon. Look­ing for­ward to that. – Graeme Tuck­ett

This film adap­ta­tion of It deals only with the child­hood-set part of the book, but never re­ally es­tab­lishes the cast as any­thing other than a small se­lec­tion of over-fa­mil­iar Stephen King reg­u­lars.

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