This year is Stephen King-centric, a month ago Sony released The Dark Tower to lacklustre applause, and now we have Warner Bros. and the iconic horror IT. This isn’t the first time fans of King have seen “It” appear on screen though. Back in 1990, there was a mini-series directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and starring Tim Curry as the chaotic clown, and it is considered a cult classic with Curry receiving the majority of the love because of his iconic turn as “It.”
27 years on and director Andy Muschietti has crafted his own twist to this twisted tale with a new Loser’s Club and a new demonic clown. The story of this latest adaptation of IT is a far more emotive tale than its 90’s counterpart, and this is down to the cast assembled. From the young actors who lead this ensemble cast to the terrifying clown himself, there is a lot of talent on show. Muschietti stays true to the core of the story Stephen King created several decades ago: a malevolent force preys on the children of Derry, Maine and a bunch of losers are its latest prey, there are a few changes from the source material, however. The decade is the 80’s instead of the 50’s, and the source of the children’s fears have been shifted to adjust for the time but other than that there are no significant changes.
What Muschietti has fashioned is a disturbing coming of age story, IT follows several children in Derry and as everyone knows we all have our own personal traumas growing up and these are represented in the film. He’s assembled a wonderful cast of characters, and these are all fresh young actors that are really impressive. The Loser’s Club, as they dub them themselves, include new kid Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), charming Beverly (Sophia Lillis), foul mouthed Richie (Finn Wolfhard), pragmatic Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), outsider Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and their leader Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) who during the film is searching for his missing brother Georgie.
This eclectic bunch is brimming with charm, wit, and character thanks to their respective actors. If there were any issues, it was with Richie who just seemed to be trying too hard with his own brand of humour, and it never felt truly genuine. This may be down to the fact that we learn so much about the heritage of the rest of the characters and Richie is left in the lurch in that respect.
Another key element of success is the town of Derry, which is a messed up place filled with all kinds of monsters: these include racists, rapists, psychopaths and that’s before we even bring in “It.” Learning about these characters, their traumas and their connections makes the journey of the Loser’s Club a fascinating one. These kids have resigned themselves to the chains that shackle them to their lives until “It” shows up and this strangely galvanizes the kids into dealing with their own personal issues as a way to better themselves.
Now onto the most important elements of IT, how is it as a horror and how effective is Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the clown? On the first part of the question, how is this film as a horror? Well, I can tell you it’s fantastic, there is genuine terror when Pennywise enters a room. Between the cinematography, the emotive score and the design of Pennywise there is a lot to take in and it’s almost all terrifying. There are some monster choices that are utilised to scare the kids that don’t hit the same chord of terror that Pennywise does, in particular, the monster that is used against Eddie which is just silly in its design.
Thankfully though the monsters used against the kids play second fiddle to Pennywise, who is played to perfection by Bill Skarsgård. Skarsgård is a petrifying Pennywise, he moves with ghastly flamboyance and has an off putting innocence that just never lets the audience settle. It’s not just the over the top scares that make him disturbingly memorable it’s the little touches, the fact that he has a fluctuating tone of voice, an ever shifting eye colour to possibly denote his mood and a stare that just pierces your soul. Pennywise is the full package, a compelling and memorable villain and that’s what ties IT up in a neat little bow of blood, gore, and terror.
IT is an emotional & twisted freak show that reminds you that fear binds us together & never let’s go. See it with friends, never alone.