‘It’ has right ingredients but fails on so many levels

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Sometimes we all need to see a good scary movie, even for those of us more advanced in age. “It” is based on the 1100 page novel by horror master Stephen King, who gave his blessing to the final product, so this should be as good as it gets. No doubt, this movie will have its legion of fans, but for us, it failed on so many levels, ugh.

The movie seemingly has all the right ingredients and maybe that’s part of the problem. Whether it’s Stephen King’s “Stand by Me” (1986) or Steven Spielberg’s “The Goonies” (1985), a new generation is now ready for another coming of age tale, where a group of teenage outcasts must band together for their own well-being.

As seen so often, there are brothers, inattentive parents, bullies, a physically weaker boy, a heavier one, a leader, their bicycles and their mission. At one time or another, every teen supposes he or she is a loser and adults just don’t understand them. Teen angst is universal and they battle daily against enemies, real and imagined.

Adolescents can face real troubles at home with abusive parents or against bullying at school. The message is that as difficult as it can be, sometimes the kids must take it upon themselves to solve problems that are unfairly thrust upon them. However, together with friends, they can support each other and accomplish much more.

Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) discovers, “When you’re a kid, you think you’ll always be protected and cared for. Then, one day you realize that’s not true.” When their one female friend Beverly (Sophia Lillis) thanks them for letting her hang with them, Bill replies, “You shouldn’t thank us too much, hanging with us makes you a loser, too.”

In Derry, Maine, kids are disappearing, leaving only their bloody remains behind. Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), newcomer to the Loser’s Club, notes, “People in Derry die or disappear six times the national average. And that’s just the grown ups. Kids are worse, way worse.” Given their proximity to Cabot Cove, Maine (TV’s “Murder She Wrote”), we wonder if there is something terribly wrong with the water.

After the little brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) goes missing, each member of the Loser’s Club discovers they are experiencing nightmarish incidents. The common theme involves some clown, actually a beast named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), an evil shape shifter that takes on the embodiment of what scares each of them the most.

Many children (and adults) suffer from degrees of coulrophobia (fear of clowns), but Pennywise has a mean streak and serious set of choppers. Upon further research, the group learns the majority of murders and missing children in Derry happen every 27 years. After their parents and authorities are unwilling or unable to find the predator, the Loser’s Club decides to find and destroy this monster themselves.

At this point, the story of the Losers is fascinating. Then, director Andy Muschietti not only carries out every cheap scary movie gimmick and cliché, he even brings us creaky doors and jump-scares from “Scary Movie” (2000), intended to mock the genre. The unarmed kids enter a haunted house without a plan, decide that sticking together is the only way to survive, then immediately split up to get picked off one by one, ugh!

“It” is 135 minutes and rated R for violence, horror, bloody images and language. We wish the scary stuff lived up to the haunting lives of youngsters who chose to face their fears together. Each scene builds to a startling freak out, but each generates diminishing returns toward an eventual fading climax that is more inevitable than surprising.

Set in the late 80’s, which happens to be about 27 years ago, the ending sets up the sequel, when the kids are grown and have vowed to fight another day. We have no doubt many will enjoy this movie, even with the gags and clichés. Skarsgard takes his role as seriously as Heath Ledger did as The Joker. But, we think it would be even scarier watching Stephen King’s kids as he reads them bedtime stories, yikes!

Ron’s Rating: D
Leigh’s Rating: D

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Ron & Leigh Martel