A rare suc­cess of a Stephen King hor­ror adap­ta­tion for the big screen, ‘It’ uses the full force of UHD image and sound qual­ity. Send in the clown...

Sound+Image - - Uhd Blu-rays -

Aa sur­prise hit at the cin­ema when it was re­leased late last year, man­ag­ing a US$700m in­ter­na­tional box of­fice from a bud­get of US$35m, It was also some­thing quite rare — an ex­cel­lent adap­ta­tion to screen of a Stephen King hor­ror novel. Most of the finest King-based movies have been from his rel­a­tively small num­ber of non­hor­ror sto­ries. The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion still sits at #1 on the IMDB chart, ahead of the two God­fa­thers. Apart from The Shin­ing and the first Car­rie, though, King hor­ror has worked best on the page.

Part of the prob­lem has been rat­ings watch­ful­ness. ‘It’ appeared on the small screen in 1990 as a three-hour minis­eries. There are themes in this movie that cer­tainly couldn’t be done on TV then, and still can’t be with an Amer­i­can PG13 rat­ing. This ver­sion is ‘R’ in Amer­ica and ‘MA15+’ here.

And that means blood — at one point lots and lots of blood in what is surely a nod to scenes in The Shin­ing and Car­rie. Even be­fore the open­ing ti­tle we are shown graph­i­cally that no one is safe. Es­pe­cially chil­dren.

‘It’ is Pen­ny­wise, a mon­ster which mostly as­sumes the form of a clown, played to enor­mously creepy ef­fect by Bill Skars­gord. It ap­pears ev­ery 27 years to eat. The meal is chil­dren.

Only chil­dren can see ‘It’ and its works. Yet they aren’t just hal­lu­ci­na­tions, and one by one they’re dis­ap­pear­ing.

The movie is set in 1989, the film­mak­ers tak­ing cues from Stranger Things, with a group of 13-year-olds first be­ing creeped out by Pen­ny­wise, then at­tacked. This be­ing Stephen King, they’re also be­ing ha­rassed by a group of older teens (see Stand By Me). Pen­ny­wise even­tu­ally en­lists one of those older teens un­know­ingly in his scheme. One of the young ac­tors is Mike from Stranger Things.

We are with each of the younger teens as they ex­pe­ri­ence Pen­ny­wise’s scares, and in each case it is ef­fec­tive, with a de­cent score and solid un­der­ly­ing bass drone to un­set­tle the viewer. Ev­ery­thing con­trib­utes to wind­ing up the ten­sion. In ad­di­tion to the bul­lies and mon­ster, the girl of the group, Bev­erly, is be­ing sex­u­ally abused. But the kids are more than vic­tims. Young Bill is de­ter­mined to find out what hap­pened to his younger brother. He leads the group into con­fronta­tion with Pen­ny­wise.

This is one King I haven’t read. I un­der­stand that the book is a two-part piece, with the sec­ond part set 27 years later for an­other con­fronta­tion. No sur­prise then that ‘It: Chap­ter 2’ is due for re­lease in the mid­dle of 2019.

As I’ve hinted, the sound of this movie is first-class. Much of the at­mos­phere is es­tab­lished through it. Weirdly, the Dolby At­mos au­dio is backed up with a DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio ver­sion. Like­wise the French and Ger­man ver­sions also come with both au­dio for­mats. Ital­ian gets stan­dard DTS and there are a few more lan­guages in Dolby Dig­i­tal. Pol­ish is in a voiceover trans­la­tion rather than a dub.

It’s 2018, so no sur­prise that the movie was shot on dig­i­tal: 2.8K and 3.4K ARRIRAW. It’s 2018, yet ac­cord­ing to IMDB a 2K dig­i­tal in­ter­me­di­ate was used. Isn’t it about time that th­ese were up­graded to 4K? Not­with­stand­ing that, the movie looks gor­geous. And it looks like it was shot on the high­est qual­ity film stock, ex­cept with­out any grain. The sum­mer colours of ‘Maine’ (most of the shoot­ing was in Canada) are lush and beau­ti­ful.

The dark scenes are ren­dered with great depth, and there is in­tense con­trast. The Ul­traHD Blu-ray scores Dolby Vi­sion en­cod­ing, so there are 12 bits of depth avail­able at any in­stant, with the scale po­ten­tially mov­ing from scene to scene. The thing is gor­geous to look at — all the bet­ter to let us ad­mire Pen­ny­wise’s many, many teeth.

Video bit-rate for the stan­dard Blu-ray ver­sion of ‘It’

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