Stephen King’s ‘It’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

Warner Bros

Stephen King film and television adaptations have a long history of struggling to bring the horror master’s on-the-page visions to life. So despite early signs looking good for Andy Muschietti’s “It,” audiences still have reason to be slightly leery of its launch to the silver screen.

Many critics had middling things to say about the film, which is not really reflected in an early Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%. Variety‘s Andrew Barker wrote that “It” “feels like the flashier half of a longer story” and that “King fans will surely appreciate the clear effort and affection that went into this adaptation, even as it struggles to become more than the sum of its parts.”



‘It,’ Stephen King Adaptation, Top Horror Pre-Seller in History

Comparisons to “Stand By Me” were drawn frequently, and although the young cast including Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, and Sophia Lillis was lauded almost universally, critics couldn’t come to consensus on whether emphasizing the youngster aspect of the film was a plus or not. Many critics expressed disappointment with the lack of overall scariness of It as an entity compared to Pennywise the Clown (played by Bill Skarsgård), and the trading-in of horror sequences with action ones, particularly during the 29 Neibolt Street scene.

“It” floats into theaters Sept. 8. See highlights from the critical response below:

Variety‘s Andrew Barker: 

“But 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. Curiously, ‘It’ grows less intense as it goes, handicapped by an inability to take in the scope of Derry as a town defined by its buried traumas and secrets, let alone really plumbing the primal depths of fear that It itself represents. As Pennywise, Skarsgard is largely tasked with providing a canvas for the film’s visual effects, and he never manages to cast as long a shadow as Tim Curry did with the character in the 1990 TV miniseries.”

Indiewire’s Eric Kohn:

“While the effects stand out as markedly contemporary — Pennywise emerging, larger-than-life, from a projector and the astonishing visual of floating bodies that fill his underground lair chief among them — the most effective, unnerving aspects of the movie require no 21st century polish. Each member of the Losers Club encounters Pennywise in a different form corresponding to their individual fears, from Beverly’s ‘Carrie’-like encounter with blood bursting from a sinkhole to the gooey leper that chases Eddie through a yard, and these encounters stand out as masterstrokes of cinematic shock effects. Above all, the greatest effect of ‘It’ involves Pennywise himself, with Skarsgård taunting and wiggling his eyebrows whenever the occasion calls for it. He’s less character than spooky gimmick, but a chilling one nonetheless.”

The New York Times’ A. O. Scott:

“The new movie, a skillful blend of nostalgic sentiment and hair-raising effects, with the visual punch of big-screen digital hocus-pocus and the liberties of the R rating, still has the soothing charm of familiarity. The gang of misfit ’80s kids who face down the clown and the deeper horror he represents evoke both the middle school posse of the recent TV series ‘Stranger Things’ (there’s some overlap in the cast), but also the intrepid brotherhood from ‘Stand by Me,’ surely one of the all-time top five Stephen King movie adaptations…The filmmakers honor both the pastoral and the infernal dimensions of Mr. King’s distinctive literary vision. Derry, with its redbrick storefronts and its quirks and kinks, seems like a genuinely nice place to live in spite of the fact that its citizens, children in particular, turn up missing or maimed at an alarming rate.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips:

“The larger question is one of rhythm, and the diminishing returns of one jump scare after another. Director Muschietti’s film is afflicted by a weird case of clutter; nearly every scene begins and ends the same way, 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. Such familiar tactics will likely ensure a healthy box office return (the movie’s expected to make $70 million opening weekend), but the result plays like an Olympic hurdles event, with a really, really long track.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty:

“‘It’ is essentially two movies. The better 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. Part of me kept waiting for a voice-over from Richard Dreyfuss: ‘And that was the best summer of my life…’ Less successful are the sections that trot out Pennywise. The more we see of him, the less scary he becomes. Unless you’re really afraid of clowns, he just seems kind of cartoony after a while.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw:

“But the problem is that almost everything here looks like route one scary-movie stuff that we have seen before: scary clowns, scary old houses, scary bathrooms. In their differing ways, Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick were inspired by the potency of King’s source material to create something virulently distinctive and original. This film’s director, Andy Muschietti, can’t manage quite as much.”

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  1. fanicagem says:

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  2. noneofya buz says:

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  3. Gayle wood-ruggles says:

    Hi all, just joined here….if you’ve see “It” can you give me a heads up? Thx

  4. Prte says:

    Here is the 21st century
    we still gotta put black people in movies just so they can throw in a few racial insults.

  5. Mark Parker says:

    I want to see this but personally I don’t like directors who mess about with the heart of the story. The story should have stayed the same and not been reimaginated to start n the 80’s.

    • The decade in which the story takes place is not the “heart of the story”. Other than a few bits of setting, such as what band a kid listens to, it doesn’t change a thing.

      Also, they wanted the adult part (which takes place 27 years later) to be set in modern-day Derry.

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  7. Bill B. says:

    While I can’t I’m the King fan I once was, but thanks for the signed copy of Firestarter, I used to read all of his stuff and I thought that It was silly nonsense when it first came out. Nothing since has changed my mind. Maybe I just don’t find clowns remotely scary.

  8. Krysta Goodnight says:

    I was really disappointed in the heavy amounts of profanity from the youth portrayed in this movie. It really detracted from the storyline all together and could have easily been told without it. In this regard, the original was much better!

    • George H. says:

      You obviously haven’t read the book Krysta. The kids were cussing all the time in the book because that’s what kids do when they get away from their parents.

  9. Mark Best says:

    I just want to say that I feel that none of these critics put their finger on the real problems within the movie. One central problem is the characters. You don’t get to know them or understand them. They forget these characters have personalities. Ben and Mike are basically just there, they barely talk, the audience knows nothing about them. The skip over a lot of story for flashier cinematic sequences rather than story development. Its like most horror these days just bad because the write and director don’t understand horror, just jump scares.

  10. Having seen the film it is not that good. Save your money and go see a quality film. Frankly I think it was a story from a distorted mind i.e. Stephen King.

  11. Can I just say I loved it despite several changes? And can I complain about the overt special effects and the VERY distracting fake sunflowers at the house on Deibolt Street?

  12. Menachem Rephun says:

    The movie has an 89 on Rotten Tomatoes with a lot of glowing reviews. Not sure why none were included here. I thought the point was to show both the positive and negative reactions.

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  14. Donnie says:

    Except that the 29 kneibold street scene WAS an action packed fight. At least in the book. I went on to read most of the full articles these people read and two things became very clear. One: they haven’t read the book. Two: the disjointed story of the children is on purpose. THEre is a second movie coming where there will be flashbacks connecting everything together when they are adults. Know the source material before hating on a movie because of your opinion, especially when critics are supposed to be unbiased. This is why I never listen to critics. So full of themselves.

    • The problem with your comment is twofold:

      First, a movie should not be good or bad depending if you read the upon which it is based. The movie should stand on its own.

      Second, and this is even more important, a movie should not only be good once you’ve seen the sequel. Like I said above, a movie needs to stand on its own and be judged accordingly.

      I have read the book (albeit 30+ years ago), and I understand how the two stories are intertwined. But claiming “oh, but the second movie will solve all the problems the first one had” is a poor excuse.

    • Mayhemchik says:

      Yesssssss, thank you!

      I think I’ll take the word of the great Mr. King himself – he said he was shocked at how good it is! I can’t wait to see It!

  15. Steve Barr says:

    The Mist was one of the best Stephen King movies ever made and no one saw it and IT is going to make a fortune and that’s sad.

    • Bill B. says:

      I never read the story it was based on, but the film was very much underrated. However, it has one of the most depressing endings I’ve ever seen. If the original story was the same, I don’t blame readers of it for staying away from the film. A number years after seeing it, it was on TV and I had forgotten all about it and watched it and for the life of me I could not remember the ending, as odd as that sounds. As it got near the end and the small group got into the car, I suddenly remembered and turned it off. I guess I had blocked it from my memory or something, but I’ll never forget it again. I watch just about everything and just about nothing bothers me, but for some reason this ending really got to me.

    • Timothy W Mueller says:

      I saw The Mist, and I loved it.

    • Damon Tammas says:

      Why on earth would that be “sad” for Pete’s sake?

  16. carrotcrush says:

    I’m so excited to see this movie!!!!

    • Dreema says:

      Me too!!! My family is so sick and tired of hearing me talk about this movie! Thats all that i have been talking about for the past month! I dont care what these so called critics have to say. Who are they? The only critic whose opinions truly matter are Stephen Kings himself. And so far everyone of his reviews have been 100%! The trailers alone speak for themselves and prove the real ride that fans will get on Sept. 8th!!!! Let me be the critic to these critics writings. 70 million dollars opening weekend?? I dont think their opinions really matter!! Re – write this article after the premmier and i bet each and everyone of these so called critics will be given a good tounge lashing from millions of satisfied fans. We will all be screaming for “It 2: the return of Pennywise”!!! Or whatever it will be called!!

      • carrotcrush says:

        Omg same I’ve been talking about this movie to everyone I know! I have it as my phone background! I’ve read all the articles of everything about this movie (I swear. Every morning I woke up and checked google for ANY mew articles about It)! I’m reading the book! I’m gonna see if I can buy a wallpaper of this movie lol! I cannot wait.
        And honestly, I don’t care what critics have to say, the fans like it so I must like it. I don’t care for such close details like the sunflowers look fake, or the nice bolt street house is cliche. Like I just wanna enjoy the movie.
        And why did the article have to put negative reviews and 0 positive ones.
        And llike I said earlier about how I read every single article that came out about this movie, those were the ONLY negative reviews I saw. So Variety went out of their way to showcase negativity. Rather than praise it like literally everyone else has been.

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