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...
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’