Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard
Every generation gets their boogeyman and it looks like this generation is getting Pennywise, The Dancing Clown. Yes my friends, this killer clown from outer space has earned his rank amongst the horror elite. Pennywise is the brainchild of Stephen King who first introduced him with his hugely successful novel ‘IT’, which premiered way back in 1986. The book was then adapted into a television miniseries, where it frightened a whole generation of 90’s kids (myself included) thanks in no small part to Tim Curry’s brilliant interpretation of the title character. Now Pennywise has been resurrected via a theatrically released film. Considering how many terrible remakes we get on a yearly basis, I was hesitant to accept this one, as I always am when they want to mess around with a classic. Would Bill Skarsgard, the actor portraying Pennywise do the character justice, or was he just going to clone Tim Curry’s take on it? The same trepidation went for the director, Andy Muschietti, the director behind Mama (2003), which I’ve yet to see. Would he have what it takes to make a truly frightening movie or would this be another watered down “Horror Movie” afraid to truly scare us?
In case you’ve never seen the mini-series or read King’s book IT is all about this town in which kids keep disappearing for no apparent reason. A group of nerds and outcast who call themselves “The Losers” notice what is happening and decide to do something about it. Their explorations lead them to a discovery: there’s a strange, evil clown kidnapping the kids! Can they confront this evil entity and stop the disappearance’s from happening?
My big preoccupation with this movie was whether it was going to be truly horrifying or not. I’ve grown to learn that in modern Hollywood, an ‘R’ rating doesn’t necessarily equal intensity. Sometimes it’s just a hook to make you think the film you are about to watch is going to be “edgy” then you realize you’ve been had. In the case of ‘IT’ I am happy to say that this is a truly hardcore horror movie not afraid to shock us. In the first ten minutes, the film really shows us its fangs and lets us know it isn’t fooling around, if you stay, you are going to be horrified! So if you can’t take the heat, you better get out of that kitchen! The scares are well orchestrated, it is gory, it is intense and freaking Pennywise is a memorable boogyman! A memorable villain! My hats down to Bill Skarsgard for delivering a truly nuanced performance. Pennywise’s movements and facial gestures truly delivered a bone chilling villain, everything about him feels strange or “off”, his evil is felt in every part of the performance. Loved this villain, and I love the fact that he really goes for the jugular when the movie turns up the heat.
But apart from a strong, memorable villain, which by the way I’ve been dying to see in a film for a while now, we get a group of young characters who deliver believable performances that manage to capture that innocent age when everything is new, when you kiss for the first time, when you develop friendships that will last you a life time, and when you first start standing up to your parents. I’ve always liked that about ‘IT’, that idea that this group of friends truly care for each other, that feeling that you’re with people you can really trust in. This of course is something present in many of Stephen King’s stories like Stand By Me (1986) and Dreamcatcher (2003). King loves to tell stories of friends or a community coming together to defeat an ultimate evil, so he takes his time in writing situations where that bond, that love between characters is truly felt. Kudos to the director for seeing that and bringing it to the big screen. By the way, this film does something that all good remakes do, it gives us enough new elements so it doesn’t feel like we’re watching the same film over again.
What I loved the most about this adaptation is that it didn’t feel like a cheap horror film. It doesn’t feel like it was made by an idiot trying to scare us with cheap scares. Nope, this is a well-crafted horror film that looks beautiful, is truly frightening and has characters you care about, all without losing its edge and remembering its mission: to make you squirm in your seat. So yes my dear readers, Andy Muschietti and crew aimed to do make a truly memorable horror film and not something that you’d forget or worse yet, wish you’d never spent your time and your money on. This one was special in my book. It's filled with a lot of great moments, I think what Muschietti was aiming for was a roller coaster ride of horror and he achieved it. I was so impressed that I will be checking out Muschietti’s Mama (2003). Bottom line is IT is a fun ride, and should be experienced in a movie theater. By the looks of it, a sequel is assured, which is supposed to take place 27 years later, when the kids have all grown up. Here’s hoping they don’t give us a cheap ass sequel and maintain the same high level of quality with the next film. This film surpassed my expectations, and that’s a lot to say because normally new horror films fail to amaze me. IT was jaw-droppingly good!
Rating: 5 out of 5