Directed by Andy Muschietti.
Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, and Bill Skarsgard.
A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
After the appalling adaptation of The Dark Tower and the misfire that was The Mist TV series; It is a breath of fresh air and a supremely engrossing horror adventure. Based on King’s 1986 novel, It revolves around a group of kids who call themselves The Losers Club and their horrifying ordeal over one summer. Something is stalking the town of Derry and it has been doing it every 27 years. Children disappear and are never found, and there are sightings of the dancing clown Pennywise (Skarsgard) everywhere.
As a novel It weaves together two distinct timelines, the children in 1958 and their adult selves in 1985. With this adaptation Muschietti has chosen to separate the two timelines completely and move the childhood action to 1980s. It’s a smart move as we get tons of film references littered throughout and the film has a coming of age sentimentality that feels like The Goonies, E.T. and many other classic Spielberg movies. Each of “The Losers” are cast perfectly, particular standouts are Jack Dylan Grazer as hypochondriac Eddie and Sophia Lillis as tough as nails Beverley. Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame is also on hand as fast mouthed Richie who helps cut through a lot of the tension and provide some of the best quips in the film. Oddly I found Richie annoying in the novel, but with Wolfhard delivering the lines and his various voices stripped back he works perfectly.
This new incarnation of It is more creepy than scary. Muschietti’s debut Mama was similar in that it constantly kept you on edge, but never really frightened you. There are plenty of jump scares littered throughout and the general sense of unease is always present. Unfortunately for me, Pennywise and Its various incarnations never made me terrified as I was expecting. This could largely be to having recently read the novel and knowing the twists and turns that were due to come. But still I expected to be scared.
Speaking of scary, we must come to Pennywise and a staggering performance from Bill Skarsgard. His look in this adaptation is unnerving to say the least. The iconic opening scene where little Georgie Denbrough chases his homemade boat down the street in the rain and comes upon Pennywise hiding in a drain is horrifying and deeply unsettling. Skarsgard appears with twinkling eyes and his ability to entice Georgie to put his hand in the drain is never in doubt. Pennywise appears sparingly throughout and Muschietti has kept the key element from the novel about It’s shape shifting abilities. By using Skarsgard in only a few key scenes he is all the more effective. Relishing in the pain and misery and having so much fun, he is a joy to watch.
No adaptation is perfect and there are a lot of details of King’s ginormous novel missing and that is to be expected. As an adaptation, this version of It gets the key ingredients right. The Losers Club all feel like real kids and the film takes the time to set up their home lives and all the neuroses that they’re feeling. It doesn’t shy away from child abuse, bullying and neglectful parents. The camaraderie between the 7 actors is perfect and the final scene which sets up Chapter 2 is a stunning coming of age moment. There are also a few parts of King’s novel which I’m glad were left out. As well as the infamous child sewer orgy scene not making it into the script, there are also several gruesome murders from the book which are glossed over here. The reason I’m glad that they were left out is because a film could not do them justice compared to what King makes you imagine and may have resulted in a ton of bad CGI that simply didn’t work.
It is a stunning and well-crafted piece of filmmaking and I cannot wait to see how they do Chapter 2.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★