Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 8, 2016)
If I tended toward cheap jokes, I’d state that 2016’s IT offers the long-awaited sequel to 1982’s classic ET the Extraterrestrial.
But I’d never make a crack that terrible.
Mike Regan (Pierce Brosnan) runs a successful aviation business and enjoys a happy home life with wife Rose (Anna Friel) and 17-year-old daughter Kaitlyn (Stefanie Scott). Mike also owns a fancy-pants “smart home” with all the latest technological conveniences.
These choices come back to haunt Mike. IT consultant Ed (James Frecheville) develops an unhealthy obsession with his boss and uses his tech skills to stalk and endanger the Regans.
A straight-to-video affair, I doubt I ever would have heard of IT if I didn’t run this site. When the press release hit my inbox, though, I thought it sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a look.
I do that a lot, and it occasionally gets me into trouble, as I wind up stuck with some crap movies. Will I add IT to that list? No, but it’s closer to “bad” than to “good”.
IT comes as part of the “psycho stalker” genre, and it does little to make a name for itself. We’ve seen scores of this sort of movie: new acquaintance feels wronged and fixates on subject of scorn to get revenge. Fatal Attraction, Cape Fear, and so on – the list of films under this banner goes on endlessly.
Too many of these efforts telegraph the antagonist’s psychological problems too early, and IT suffers from that same mistake. Sure, one could argue that the movie doesn’t need to draw out the suspense in that regard, as the filmmakers know the viewer probably saw the trailer/read a synopsis and expects the villain to go bonkers.
That doesn’t mean the movie should cater to those audience preconceptions, though, especially because the decision to reveal a character’s mental issues too early creates ancillary problems. When the viewer learns of this extreme nuttiness, it becomes tougher to accept that the characters affected by this person don’t pick up on these quirks.
And so it goes during IT. Ed seems “off” pretty much out of the gate, so the audience wonders why the characters don’t notice these tendencies. Because we question their perceptions, we don’t care about what happens to them – we think the affected parties should be smarter and feel less sympathy when the inevitable problems evolve.
Even if IT lacked the standard “creepy guy” buildup for Ed, it would remain ordinary, though I think parts of the premise show potential. The film reminds us how deep in our lives “smart technology” runs – and how easily someone could pervert those gadgets. If IT had been a better movie, it could’ve done for interactive technology what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean.
But it’s not an especially effective tale, as it relies too much on leaps of logic and hoary thriller clichés. A few of these still produce tension – especially when Mike infiltrates Ed’s lair – but none of these techniques ever feels fresh or creative.
That leaves us with a mediocre thriller. IT offers enough zing to ensure it keeps us with it for its 95 minutes, but it fails to create anything especially provocative or memorable.