M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on September 8, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers Entertainment!


Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga & Gary Dauberman (screenplay), Stephen King (novel)
Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Jake Sim, Logan Thompson, Owen Teague, Jackson Robert Scott, Stephen Bogaert, Stuart Hughes, Geoffrey Pounsett, Pip Dwyer, Molly Atkinson, Steven Williams, Elizabeth Saunders, Megan Charpentier, Joe Bostick, Ari Cohen, Anthony Ulc, Javier Botet, Katie Lunman, Carter Musselman, Tatum Lee, Edie Inksetter, Martha Gibson, Neil Crone, Sonia Gascón, Janet Porter, & Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise!
Find out more about this film here, @ITmovie, and on Facebook here

IT is the type of big blockbuster horror I’d love to see more of. While it isn’t a perfect movie, it will bring attention to the horror genre and you’re going to see plenty of headlines reading “Horror is a big thing again!” With the success of the film, expect tons of knockoffs from unimaginative hacks. But despite that, it allows mass audiences to try to understand what it is about horror that we all love. Maybe more money will be put into the production of some other genre filmmakers project because of IT and because of that, I am not hating it for its mass appeal. MAMA director Andy Muschietti put together a slick production, a talented cast, and one hell of a scary clown to produce one of the best-looking horror films of the year.

IT focuses on the town of Derry. A small town with a long history of violence and death. More kids go missing in Derry than anywhere else. And it seems that every 27 years, a major catastrophe causing a large loss of life occurs. While the original miniseries interspersed the stories of the adult protagonists with a tale from their youth, IT focuses directly on the childhood years, or rather, one summer where a group of kids’ innocence was lost to an entity they refer to as “It.” After the death of a young boy named Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), seven kids are each haunted by a clown-like entity and are proven to be no match for him. But together, this group self-dubbed the Loser’s stand a chance to vanquish this monster.

Taking full advantage of our love of all things Amblin, Muschietti is able to capture that nostalgia of riding your bike through suburban streets until dark and getting into all kinds of adventures. It’s an American dream age/simpler time that many folks long for and the establishing shots of the summer of 1985 really does feel authentic through Muschietti’s lens. It’s the real feel of familiarity and nostalgia that Muschietti lulls us in to a comfort zone to be disrupted by Pennywise the Dancing Clown played by Bill Skarsgård.

Skarsgård is a standout here. It would take something original to break the mold Tim Curry set as Pennywise the Clown and apart from being a clown and speaking some of the same key lines, breaking that mold is exactly what Skarsgård does. From his first appearance, cleverly shadowed all but his mouth and eyes inside a sewer drain, Skarsgård is the epitome to menace and innocence lost. Seeing a creature that is meant to entertain be twisted and perverted as it is with Pennywise, it truly is the stuff of nightmares and Skarsgård brings a lot in simple unblinking eyes, some drool from his pouty lips, and a cartoonish voice that is both outlandish and tempting as he tries to lure Georgie into the sewer where he can float with the rest of the circus. This opening scene is staged and played perfectly by all involved and this seduction Pennywise is attempting with Georgie is terrifyingly realized and paced to perfection, culminating with some truly graphic violence that tells the viewer that we are about to witness some truly awful stuff.

But it is in these opening moments that a glaring problem occurs. Pennywise is successful in luring Georgie into the sewer by being subtle, more like a fisherman tugging a lure ever so slightly in order to get his prey and eventually, it works. This scene takes a while to play out, but the tension is nerve-shredding. Later in the film, Pennywise adopts a more aggressive tone, choosing to appear as the kid’s worst fears and simply trying to take them with force. I would have liked to see a little more variation to Pennywise’s strategy with some temptation and subtlety rather than simply bombastically running at the kids and trying to snatch them up. Sure it makes for a startling jump scare, but repeating it seven times for each kid kind of gets tedious, even though Muschietti varies it up with different twisted imagery. Still, each attempt to take the kids can be summed up with Pennywise or some kind of version of Pennywise haunting and scaring the kids and then charging them. Why change to a more aggressive strategy when the baiting one worked so well with Georgie?

That said, this cast of kids is so, so good. All of them (okay, maybe despite the reserved performance of Chosen Jacobs and Wyatt Oleff who gets less screen time than most) are realized in a likable, yet flawed way. Standouts abound. Sophia Lillis epitomizes that girl everyone is has a crush on, and she knows it, but simply doesn’t care because hanging with these losers is better than the hell she has at home. Finn Wolfhard might have been the only distraction simply because of the similarity of the imagery to STRANGER THINGS, but his Mouth from GOONIES like demeanor sets him apart from that role pretty well. Jack Dylan Grazer is hilarious and tragic as the hypochondriac and common sense spouter of the group. Jeremy Ray Taylor is the shy kid in all of us, who longs to connect, but is just too self-conscious to do anything. Taylor plays the role perfectly and instantly becomes something much more than another annoying fat kid Chunk stereotype. And leading the Loser’s is MIDNIGHT SPECIAL’s Jaeden Lieberher who is flawed himself, yet shows leadership and bravery all the way through. His obsession with finding his lost brother is the guiding force of this film and Lieberher is believable all the way through.

While Muschietti relies a little too much on the “comin’ at cha!” effect and jump scares in this film, the moments where he calms down and simply plots out a suspenseful scene are pretty great. The child cast worked with honors. And Skarsgård proved to be a risky, but inspired choice as Pennywise. There’s a lot to love about this movie, despite it’s flaws, but the true challenge is going to be the second movie where you don’t have the comfort of nostalgia or the cuteness of child actors to propel the story and win the audience. Casting will be crucial with IT: CHAPTER TWO and I’m rooting for it to work. While the adult portions of the miniseries is where its failings are most evident, I’m hoping the second outing in Derry will be equally terrifying as this one. I’ll be seeing IT: CHAPTER ONE over again as it is definitely a crowd-pleasing movie filled to the brim with scares and looking forward to what comes next.

Click here for the trailer!

THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!

#15 – HOWL
#21 – SPLIT
#23 – 47 METERS DOWN

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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