Opinion Piece: It (2017) Discussion With The Blog From Another World

27 years after the first It, Pennywise the Clown has risen again in a new film adaptation.

27 days after its release (or thereabouts), Judith and Patrick talk about It.


Patrick:

Firstly, how did you think the film compared with the book? Did you like the changes it made?

Judith:

I think the film handled the source material cleverly; they didn’t try to cram absolutely everything from the book into the plot, streamlining it in a way that works best for film.

I loved the characterisation of Eddie and Richie. They were definitely the best acted and felt incredibly accurate to their counterparts in the book. Annoyingly however, Bill and Ben felt a bit “meh” – underdeveloped – and Mike was almost non-existent. Mike’s overlooking in particular is a real shame, because he is meant to be the one who provides the history of Derry to the group and the one to reunite them as adults. His small role could even be seen as problematic, considering he is the only person of colour in the group and has the smallest presence.

My Photo [It 4]

Patrick:

I did think some of the characterisation could have been shared round more. With a running time of over two hours, it was pretty long for a horror film, and it was perplexing why some of that time couldn’t have been spent on giving all the characters equal detail. I think it will be interesting to see who they cast as the older versions of the characters for the sequel.

I think they made judicious choices and made the most commercially viable film they could – in a good way! It has obviously captured audience’s attentions and I think a lot of this is making the story more accessible.

Judith:

Yes, I agree. Perhaps a lack of detailed characterisation for all was dependant on who were the strong / weak actors. In my opinion, Eddie and Richie developed the best performances, which isn’t surprising, as Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie) has had other multiple acting roles in addition to It, and Finn Wolfhard (Richie) is best known for his strong performance in Stranger Things.

Patrick:

I think that the success of Stranger Things certain pushed Finn Wolfhard to the forefront in order to draw in that audience.

Yet if you look at something like The Goonies, you know who each of the kids are. They might be more broadly drawn than the kids in the novel of It, but you know where you stand with all of them. If they had to simplify the Losers Club, and shed some characterisation in the process, they could have done it more effectively.

Did you think the film was scary?

Judith:

I think it relied too much on jumpscares and loud noises, although I had expected that from watching the trailer*.

*If you’d like to read our discussion of the It trailer, you can find it here:

When I left the cinema, I described it as “ridiculous macabre” to my friends, because It walks a fine line between creepy and downright ridiculous.

Patrick:

Which moments were the most effective?

Judith:

The scene that affected me most was when Pennywise approached Eddie in the abandoned house. He got so close to Eddie’s face and taunted him, truly terrifying an-already traumatised and injured Eddie. I thought both performances here worked really well; Pennywise felt like a tangible character who could not only psychologically torment them but physically grab, restrain or hurt the children just to scare them.

My Photo [It 1]
Still taken from the Official It Trailer

Patrick:

I thought the scares were fine, there was plenty of atmosphere and a good aesthetic but, as you say, too much of a reliance on loud noises making you jump. I really enjoyed the moment with the projector, the sense of helplessness really carried over and turned what could have been really corny into something quite primal.

My Photo [It 2]
Still taken from the Official It Trailer
Judith:

What did you think about the 80s nostalgia? I remember you mentioning it when we originally discussed our predictions for the film.

Patrick:

I thought it was pretty cynical but it didn’t bother me as much as it might have done. I think it takes some of the surprise out of the film, as you know the aesthetic and the locations almost immediately. It’s transposing the familiarity of the novel’s world to one which countless other films and TV series have taken place. I didn’t think it was too intrusive though.

What did you think of the portrayal of Pennywise? Was Bill Skarsgård an appropriate choice?

Judith:

I think he was creepy and unnerving but, like I’ve said previously, there was an underlying ridiculousness.

He at times looks odd rather than scary. His voice always seemed creepy and never friendly, making me think, “How does a little boy get persuaded to climb into the sewer with a man who already looks terrifying and introduced himself with a jumpscare?”

My Photo [It 3]
Tim Curry’s Pennywise (1990) and Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise (2017)
Patrick:

I thought Skarsgård didn’t have the true creepiness that Pennywise does in the book; there’s such a strange seductiveness to him that makes him even more frightening. He’s like a grounded, realistic predator whereas Skarsgård was simply Coco the Creepy Clown. I don’t know whether someone like Will Poulter (the original choice), would have been better. He certainly looks less eerie. Skarsgård has unnerving written all over him.

Judith:

What did you think about shifts in tone? It mixes comedy with horror so often.

Patrick:

Honestly, I think it came from the 80s setting. This film wanted to be Goonies, ET and Halloween all in one. I certainly think the lurches in tone could have been avoided if the film had been set in the 50s.

Judith:

I think I would have enjoyed It in a similar way if it wasn’t a horror, which is odd, given how much it is marketed like a stereotypical horror. It felt at times more like a summer coming-of-age film; there were jarring scenes of friendship and fun in the midst of what is meant to be fear and tension.

Patrick:

I can see that. I think the film could have been about about ten minutes shorter. To me, it was trying to make a slightly pretentious point about “oh we’re a crafted and prestigious film” and the ending could have been stripped down.

Are you excited for the second film? What changes do you think will be made for it?

Judith:

I’m excited for the sequel because I hope as adults, Pennywise will terrorise them differently and more intensely. Some of the scares in this It were a little tame – perhaps to tone it down for a teenage audience. I hope the adult characters are developed more fully, and we get the chance to see what Pennywise / It truly is.

Patrick:

I hope that the sequel will progress in both tone and maturity. I hope it’s won’t be like The Hunger Games, which remained 12 rated even though, as an audience member growing up with the films, we were 16-18 when they finished.  I hope that they choose good actors rather than stars. I don’t want Chris Pratt to distract from the fact that I’m supposed to be scared.


A sequel for It has been confirmed to be released in 2019.


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An Interview With Cathy Ryan

This week, I interviewed Cathy Ryan, a blogger living in North Wales.

Her hobbies include reading, listening to audio books, blogging, walking her dog, theatre, music and travel. “I spent most of my working life doing voluntary work at schools for children with special needs, cataloguing the library and reading with the younger ones. Now, my time is my own.”

Cathy began blogging in late 2013, and would describe her blogging style as informative. “I wanted to catalogue the books I’d read. I kept getting caught out, buying books with different covers or changed titles, only realising after the purchase I’d already read it.” she explained.

“Initially it was intended to be private, for my own records, but I found I was restricted as to what I could do with a private site. I decided to go live, not thinking anyone would take an interest. I was very surprised when I began to get visits and it went from there.”

Cathy has many favourite genres to read, such as thrillers, mysteries, crime, drama, and historical fiction. However, she isn’t keen on romance novels. “It’s generally not exciting!” Cathy said, “It’s not tense enough to keep me engaged.”

Fantasy is also a genre Cathy avoids. “I’ve never been able to get into most fantasy novels. Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or anything along those lines does nothing for me.”

I asked Cathy which author she’d most like to meet. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed, “If I can only choose one, I think it would be Emily Bronte. I love Wuthering Heights, it’s a huge favourite of mine.”

Cathy joined Rosie’s Book Review Team in 2014, and writes book reviews for the Team. She believes negative reviews have their place, but shouldn’t trash an author’s work and must be constructive. “I think a reviewer has to be honest with their opinions – about what they like, or don’t like, about a book. For me, if a book rates below 3 stars, I don’t think it’s for me, and I avoid submitting a review.” she said.

You can find Cathy Ryan on Twitter at @CathyRy and her website is betweenthelinesbookblog.com.

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Thanks for reading!

– Judith

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale With The Blog From Another World

Image via Channel 4.

With the hit television drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, currently sweeping our screens, Patrick from The Blog From Another World and I decided to discuss the book and its adaptation.

The Handmaid’s Tale is based on Margaret Atwood’s feminist dystopian novel of the same name, following the life of Offred, a Handmaid living and serving the extreme Christian totalitarian system named Gilead. She is forced to have sex with her Commander each month, in the hopes she will be impregnated with his child and thus continue the population of Gilead.

I’ve only briefly discussed The Handmaid’s Tale before. In a nutshell, my opinion of the novel is that it’s I liked the subverted use of Christianity, which made for an interesting dystopian, but the feminist overtones are overly laboured.

Patrick however, has not finished The Handmaid’s Tale yet.

“I have read part of it, but not enough to provide an honest summation. I think watching this story with very little prior knowledge gives the series a real unpredictability. I will have it finished by the time the series is over though!”

This is not the first adaptation of the novel; The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into a film in 1990 – a film I have seen, and did not enjoy. I think the decision to move from a film adaptation to an in-depth television drama was smart.

Patrick said, “I think this TV adaptation has allowed the writers to expand upon Margaret Attwood’s ideas and the world she has created. You can dive into the backstory of many characters and give everything a very modern update. I think it was the most obvious thing to do and has paid off enormously.”

The Handmaid’s Tale is not especially a long novel, but its television adaptation has been divided into 10 episodes.

In my opinion, this helps the narrative to be divided proportionally, so that the story is covered at an appropriate depth and doesn’t feel “drawn out”. I also like the incorporation of flashbacks to Offred’s old life, as these both emphasise the pain she is currently in at being separated from her husband and daughter and tie in to the current narrative as she hears rumours her husband may be found.

Yet, despite thinking ten episodes is a good length for the drama, I struggle to keep up with watching new episodes.

In the UK, The Handmaid’s Tale is aired on Channel 4, and available to watch on catch-up on All4.   Channel 4 is notorious for its advert breaks. This is a petty complaint, and not linked to the production of The Handmaid’s Tale itself, but regularly disrupting a show that is full of gripping scenes and high-tension to advertise the latest dishwasher or car completely ruins my immersion in the drama.

The frequent advert breaks have a dramatic impact on my willingness to keep up with new episodes, and this is a real shame.

Patrick also struggles to watch new episodes, but for a different reason.

“I have hit a bit of a brick wall with this series. I cannot fault it – honestly – but it’s just so grim that I don’t know when I’ll watch the next episode.” he said, “If The Handmaid’s Tale was six, rather than ten, episodes long, then the intensity of the rape and violence might be warranted. Instead, imagining another four hours of brutality is not the most attractive prospect now – sometimes you need a bit lighter entertainment.”

However, Patrick and I have plenty of positives to discuss about The Handmaid’s Tale too.

He said, “I have really enjoyed the performances from the cast. Elizabeth Moss has made an incredible Offred, and has created so much depth and emotion. Yvonne Strahovski has also made the character of Serena Joy much more sympathetic and poignant than I first thought. I think that Serena Joy is probably the character I watch with the most interest.”

On this, I have to agree. In the novel, Serena Joy was always presented as a harsh, standoffish woman who resented Offred from the beginning. Whilst this is present in the television adaptation too, we are also presented with a  vulnerable, emotional – and quite frankly, human – side to her that helps the audience to understand her motivations and feelings, and this, I think, was lacking from the book.

Patrick continued, “I also think many of the directing choices have been strong. The complex and jumbled chronology has added variety and context when needed. The writing is fantastic, really delving into the situation with uncompromising bleakness.

In terms of casting, Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia is very impressive and I think Madeline Brewer as Janine is the most complex role. The women have the most material to work with, and the series as a whole is a really ensemble effort.”

The penultimate episode of The Handmaid’s Tale airs on Sunday the 23rd of July at 9pm.

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– Judith and Patrick