Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

It Remake is Messy, But Packs Plenty of Scares

A review of the new version of the Stephen King tale, plus local movie news and notes.


The weight of great expectations hangs heavy on the remake of “It,” the labyrinthine and skin-crawling horror epic originally written by Stephen King.

The release of a terrifying trailer in March set a record for online views in a single day after being viewed nearly 200 million times in 24 hours. Ever since, the question on the minds of horror fans has not been whether or not this “It” (the first was a lengthy TV movie released in 1990) would be effective; rather, discussions have circled around whether this film would be among the best frighteners ever made.

Perhaps it’s due to the increased cultural phobia of clowns; perhaps “Stranger Things,” extensively influenced by King’s 1980s work, reignited nostalgia for the longtime master of pulp shock. Maybe we’re just starved for a great horror movie. Whatever the reason, anticipation has been remarkably high for the return of Pennywise the clown.

Can the film live up to the hype?

No. But it’s still pretty good.

Adapting the events of the first half of King’s massive novel, “It” follows a group of lovable, self-described losers in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. All have troubles — rough parents, violent bullies, social ostracization — but those woes are background noise to a bigger problem: People in Derry seem to suffer tragic deaths and mysterious disappearances quite often, and kids are the most frequent victims.

Our crew begins having terrifying visions unique to their personal fears, often involving a monstrous, cackling circus clown. As it becomes more and more clear that the gang is in serious danger, they reckon with the need to confront the unknown.

“It” is, in all forms, a messy and difficult story, delving deep into the complicated universe laid out in King’s works. While many have fond memories of the 1990 version — primarily thanks to Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise — that adaptation held up for half of its runtime at best before utterly falling apart.

There is a similar, if less pronounced, arc at work in this latest version; the setup and early scares are great, the payoff is OK. Director Andrés Muschietti creates an invasive, unsettling atmosphere that permeates even the light-hearted and humorous moments in the film (of which, surprisingly, there are many), while the screenplay — from a trio led by Cary Fukunaga — does fine work in building its characters and, more vitally, their personal demons.

As confrontation looms, though, cracks begin to show. Some of the film’s effects are believable and harrowing; others are obvious digital creations. The promising plot begins to lose threads as the film becomes a stock quest story (go to the place, beat the bad guy). Many of the more troubling aspects of King’s story are hinted at without being fully confronted; they should’ve either been left in or cut out entirely.

Fortunately, the cast carries the film ably; among the youths, Finn Wolfhard and Sophia Lillis stand out. And — at the risk of slighting one of the genre’s sacred cows — Bill Skarsgård provides the definitive interpretation of Pennywise, tapping deep into the guttural fears that make so many people terrified of clowns. He needs no special effects; the fear comes from the actor.

The only way to be let down by “It” is to expect too much. It is a successful, frightening adaptation that nevertheless finds a way to be something of a crowd-pleasing popcorn flick, in spite of its subject matter. Is it the best horror film of the decade (or even the year)? No. Certainly not. But don’t let overhype ruin your night; you’ll still leave the theater terrified of the circus. And balloons.

*      *      *

The Montage: Dormont’s Hollywood Theater will this Saturday host an auction of movie posters dating back to the 1920s. The collection of late Brentwood barber Allen Seich, including golden-age rarities, will be auctioned; the Hollywood will also auction autographed items from its own collection and give a free poster to all visitors while supplies last. Tonight, a pre-auction viewing of the collection and a screening of the documentary “24x36: A Movie About Movie Posters” will precede the auction itself, set for Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Click here for more info ... Missing summer already? Keep blockbuster season alive in your heart by heading to Row House Cinema for Superhero Week, featuring “Blade,” “Batman Returns,” “Superman” (the Christopher Reeve version) and “Wonder Woman.”


Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in April

This month's lineup includes Rick Astley, Billy Price, Christopher Cross and Ronnie Milsap.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in April

Tour local social clubs with the Roaming Social Club; expect changes at AMC Waterfront

April: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in April

A look back at "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" as it turns 30, plus two literary events coming up in April.

Perspectives: ‘This Is Us’ Is a Story of Us

A former Pittsburgher finds more than a few similarities between his own life and that of the siblings on "This Is Us."

Spare Change: A New Way of Giving

A local group is using music and some spare change to help charities — and filming every step of the way.

Look How Mighty This Bellevue Garden Has Grown

Last season, the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden produced 4,862 pounds of food; the harvest was donated to three food pantries.

When and Where to Dump Your Junk (including old TVs)

A state environmental agency wants to help you recycle your hard-to-dispose-of household clutter.

Watch: Trailer of “Won't You Be My Neighbor”

The documentary about Mister Rogers' iconic show takes viewers beyond the cardigan collection and into “the heart of a creative genius.”

On a Lark: Pittsburgh Mom Creates Activewear for Babes

Unable to find cute, environmentally friendly gear for her newborn son, Lark Adventurewear founder Pallavi Golla launched her own line of moisture-wicking clothing for kids.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: The Beacon's Perch – The Grant Building

When it opened in 1929 as the city’s tallest structure, crowds of sightseers paid a quarter to visit the rooftop observation deck of the Grant Building — named for the street, which was named for the hill, which was named for the somewhat hapless general.

Rick Sebak Digs Up Distant Carnegie-Trump Connection

Research into Andrew Carnegie’s marriage reveals an unlikely, albeit tenuous, connection between the Pittsburgh icon and the 45th President.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Teams Up with Drake, Travis Scott and Ninja to Play Fortnite

Drake and Ninja broke Twitch viewing records, and Smith-Schuster and Scott joined in later.

Growing Up: mossArchitects Moving to Garfield

Principal Andrew Moss says his architecture firm will move to the heart of the Penn Avenue Arts District after outgrowing its current space in Lawrenceville.

Teaching Cyber Safety - The Things You Might Not Know

iQ:smartparent’s Cyber Safety segment offers advice on topics such as what to do with “sexted” images you find on your kids’ phones and more.