Andy Muschietti’s take on Stephen King’s It is the next winner in what has been a banner year for horror films in cinema. It marks one of the best Stephen King adaptations and captures that glorious reset-to-the-80s feel that make Monster Squad and The Goonies such classics. Pennywise the Dancing Clown maybe the big bad but it’s the kids that win the day!
It’s inevitable to draw comparison to the 1990 mini-series based on Stephen King’s classic novel It, if that is your benchmark, then you will be suitably impressed with this big screen foray in the cursed town of Derry, Maine. Capturing King on screen is so much more about capturing the feel of the piece along with the horror to make it resonate. I liken it to David Lynch’s closing episodes of Twin Peaks redux, which dripped with the sensation of what made the series so iconic, and left you with that innate sense of the time and place its set in. The same happens here, where Muschietti and team have captured the youthful innocence banding together in the late 80s to face a beast that only they can see.
Shifted from the original 1958 setting and supplanted to 1988 Derry, Maine, young Bill Denbrough (Jaden Liebreher), sick with the flu, assists his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) in waxing his paper sailboat so he can let it float down the flowing gutter of the street. Unable to go along, Georgie goes off to play and is never seen again.
Flash forward to Summer 1989. Bill and his friends Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stan (Wyatt Olef), and Richie (Finn Wolfhard) are about to break from school when their ‘losers club’ expands to include school newbie Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverley (Sophia Lillis) and the home schooled Mike (Chosen Jacobs). They bond over a commonality – there is something severely wrong with this town, too many kids are disappearing and they are all being stalked by something that takes the form of a clown – Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skårsgard).
It works so well and it’s thanks to the comradery and on screen banter of these kids. The jump scares come thick and fast, but what makes the film tick is the exact element that makes the novel such a classic – the characterisations and demonstrations of youth in the zeitgeist of the time is pitch perfect. There’s plenty of comedy along the way and the rapid fire exchanges keep the film moving at a propulsive pace.
Skasgard relishes his turn as the demonic Pennywise and the film rightly keeps his appearances as limited as possible. A sequence in a garage is particularly malevolent and Muschetti rightly doesn’t shy away from the violence of his villain’s ability when needed. But this is about being fearful, about never knowing when or where it might strike and It works this angle effortlessly.
Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung beautifully captures small town Derry in the cinemascope frame, taking cues from David Fincher’s earlier works with many sequences shot from the ground looking up. It makes the scale grander, the sets more imposing and the horror elements more engrossing.
For a Stephen King adaptation, this ranks right up there with The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, Dolores Claiborne and The Green Mile in capturing the essence of the source material. Yes, elements have been changed here, and a bit more time in servicing a few of the characters would’ve been nice but these are very minor quibbles given the strength of the overall result. This is really impressive.
2017 is a banner year for horror and Andy Muschetti’s It is one of its flagships. Hugely entertaining, with more than enough scares to keep you on your toes, this King on the big screen is well worth your time! You’ll happily float down here, too!
IT is in CINEMAS NATIONALLY through ROADSHOW FILMS