The anticipation for “It” has been building tremendously ever since the debut teaser broke records and became the most watched trailer in its first 24 hours. The Andy Muschietti adaptation of the Stephen King novel finally opens nationwide this Friday, and the first wave of reviews have debuted and, unfortunately, they aren’t exactly glowing.
Every critic seems to agree “It” is a satisfying adaptation, especially since adapting half of King’s 1,138 page book is no easy feat, but critics can’t help but feel the movie drops the ball when it comes to being an effective horror film.
The movie has plenty of scares, but they’re nearly all jump scares regulated to individual set pieces. As a result, the film just doesn’t add up. As IndieWire’s Eric Kohn says in his B- review, “‘It’ simplifies its appeal with jump scares…For much of King’s novel, Pennywise menaces because his threat is abstract, but “It” only nods to these ideas. The movie displays more interest in using them as a gateway to catapult from one jump scare to the next.”
“It struggles to become more than the sum of its parts,” Variety’s Andrew Barker says. “As spine-tingling as a number of individual scenes are, the film struggles to find a proper rhythm. Scene-to-scene transitions are static and disjointed, settling into a cycle of ‘…and then this happened’ without deepening the overall dread or steadily uncovering pieces of a central mystery.”
The Hollywood Reporter agrees as well. John DeFore writes, “Though effective individually, the scenes don’t build upon each other to fill us with dread. And they would benefit from a few more practical effects mixed in with the CG, especially if Muschietti wants to milk some retro pleasures from his setting…it falls well short of the King-derived film it clearly wants to evoke, ‘Stand By Me.'”
Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribute summarizes the critical reaction best when he explains why the “diminishing returns of one jump scare after another” don’t do the movie justice. “Nearly every scene begins and ends the same way,” he writes, “with a slow build, a vulnerable child in a cellar or an old dark house, a violent, bloody confrontation (either in the everyday bullying sequences, which are psychotically vicious, or in the Pennywise appearances) leading up to a KAAA-WHUMMMMMM!!!! sound effect.”
The set pieces are good, but they’re all the same in terms of the type of scare they’re trying to illicit, and thus “It” gets fairly repetitive and less scary. “The more we see of Pennywise, the less scary he becomes,” Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty explains. “Unless you’re really afraid of clowns, he just seems kind of cartoony after a while.”
If there’s one thing that redeems “It” and makes it a satisfying experience it’s the child actors and the humor. “The better movie by far (and it’s very good) is the one that feels like a darker “Stand by Me” — a nostalgic coming-of-age story about seven likable outcasts riding around on their bikes and facing their fears together,” writes Nashawaty.
“You don’t root for the Losers’ Club just because you’re supposed to — each kid has a complete arc and time to shine as well as mess things up,” Brian Truitt of USA Today adds. “The cast of mostly unknowns is spectacular from top to bottom; Jeremy Ray Taylor and Sophia Lillis are especially effective with performances that touch the soul.”
“It” isn’t the horror masterpiece many critics were expecting, but it does get a ton of good scares, even if they all don’t add up in the end. The movie opens nationwide this Friday, September 8.