The rediscovery of Stephen King’s work in 2017 came to a successful close with the release of IT, a remake of the 1990 TV mini-series and based on King’s 1986 best-selling novel.
Evil is lurking in the small town of Derry, Maine. Children have been going missing without a trace, with the police investigation of one child’s abduction ending as soon as the next child disappears. Most adults don’t even care about what may be lurking underneath within the sewers. When Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), goes missing during a rainstorm and is lured down into the sewer and attacked by what at first appears to be an innocent clown by the name of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), his friends known as The Losers begin checking the sewer drains looking for Georgie and their other missing classmates. They soon meet up with three other outsiders who have something in common with them, as they are also the victims of being bullied by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton); Overweight and bookworm Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), sexually abused Beverly (Sophia Lillis), and home schooled Mike (Chosen Jacobs). Their bond as friends grows over the summer, eventually posing a threat to Pennywise, who then attempts to break them apart.
In 1990, the TV mini-series IT, based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, freaked me out, even though I was in my mid-twenties at the time. Tim Curry’s portrayal of the clown Pennywise remains as one of the actor’s creepiest ever put on screen. So, I had really looked forward to seeing if this new, updated version for the big screen could meet or exceed the scares and creepiness of the original. The answer is mixed. Being R-rated, the filmmakers had the luxury of being much more violent and gory, and in some ways, that can take away some of the best scares in movies that are not seen. Quite often, when talent is restricted by budget or censorship, it causes them to be more creative as to how to place their vision (on Mr. King’s vision) on the screen under these constraints. In many ways, that was what made Twin Peaks so watchable during its initial run on ABC, as the writers and directors had to be clever to get things past the network’s standards and practices. Andy Muschietti’s remake of IT too often relies on the fact that they are making an R-rated film, allowing the kids to drop F-bombs repeatedly, not having to spare bloodshed or worry about being too graphic in its depictions of violence. That is not to say that this 2017 film is bad; it’s actually quite scary and a thrilling ride from beginning to end, but seems to lack that creative push into the audience’s minds that made the mini-series so successful. Another major difference in this big screen adaptation is that Muschietti only tells the first half of the story, following only the kids during their summer break from school and investigation into the missing children and uncovering and confronting Pennywise, leaving the second half of The Losers reuniting as adults to battle Pennywise once more for a sequel set for release in 2019.
IT was captured in 2.8K resolution using Arri Alexa Mini and XT Plus cameras, then completed as a 2K digital intermediate with high dynamic range using Dolby Vision. Warner’s upscaled 2160p transfer retains the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and Dolby Vision HDR, but this may be the first title with Dolby Vision that I’ve come across that does not play well with playback and display equipment that can only process HDR10. There is a minimal increase in fine detail over the 1080p Blu-ray, and the same can be said of contrast, with some of the darker sequences (and there are a lot of them) appearing somewhat murky rather than deep blacks with increased shadow detail. The film does have a muted color palette, which is intentional to depict the life that Pennywise has been sucking from the town, although where this UHD version really shines is in the use of the color red, particularly the red balloons Pennywise uses to lure the children away. The red in both blood and the balloons is much more intense in the UHD version with HDR than the 1080p Blu-ray. Unfortunately, that’s about all there is.
IT on UHD contains the same chilling Dolby Atmos track that can be found on the Blu-ray, but for some reason the UHD disc defaults to the redundant DTS-HD MA 5.1 track (the exact opposite of the Blu-ray, which defaults to Dolby Atmos). The Atmos track is demo-worthy, making use of heights to depict various creepy sounds within the round sewer walls, but also atmospherics like rainfall and wind. This is a very dynamic mix, meant to be played at a high volume, yet dialogue is always clear and understandable. LFE is strong, as expected with most Atmos tracks.
All of the special features can be found on the included Blu-ray edition of the film.
Pennywise Lives! (1080p; 16:25): A look at bringing Pennywise to the big screen, including how actor Bill Skarsgard performed many of his own stunts and relied more on practical effects.
The Losers’ Club (1080p; 15:42): A more detailed look at the young cast.
Author of Fear (1080p; 13:51): A rather candid interview with the book’s author, Stephen King, and his thoughts on the story and the film. Beware of the very scary and protruding chest hair that eventually disappears near the end of the interview….
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 15:18): Eleven scenes are presented, but cannot be selected individually. They can, however, be skipped using the Next Chapter button on your remote.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere. I redeemed my code directly on Vudu (which is connected to both Movies Anywhere and UltraViolet), which gave me UHD versions on Vudu, Google Play Movies, and FandangoNow, and only HD on Amazon Video.
IT is a scary, thrilling ride through 1980s nostalgia, but the 2160p video is somewhat disappointing and not much of an upgrade over the 1080p Blu-ray.
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