Director: Andy Muschietti
Writer: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, et al
Synopsis: In the small town of Derry, Maine, a group of bullied kids band together to fight an evil entity who is hunting the town’s children.
Another attempt at adapting Stephen King’s 1986 tome was initially met by a great deal of scepticism by a great many people (myself included, to a degree). The previous adaptation, starring – of course – Tim Curry, was a 3 hour plus TV mini-series, jumping back and forth between the past and the present of the Losers’ Club as they fight the creature best known as Pennywise. The original adaptation was generally well liked, but having watched it again relatively recently, it does feel somewhat dated.
The new spin on the tale brings things very much more up-to-date. Whilst the novel and mini-series have the young versions of the Losers in the 1960s, this movie brings them into the 1980s, enabling a present day setting for the second part (which has now officially been green-lit). Putting the early escapades in to the 1980s is a smart move – capturing some of the joy and nostalgia of that decade and cashing in on the Stranger Things vibe makes it feel so much more relevant (not to mention that Stranger Things’ Mike (Finn Wolfhard) appears as one of the Losers). There is so much fun and joy to be had following the group of kids as they deal with life and adventures and murder in small-town USA in the 1980s. As many other reviewers have said, a lot of It‘s charm is the fact that it’s more a coming-of-age tale with horror elements than a full-on horror, which could well explain the incredible box office the film has already achieved. All of the young actors are terrific, but Wolfhard deserves special mention for bringing most of the laughs with his effing and “your momma” jokes.
It’s the humour that helps alleviate some of the issues with the film. The young characters all have incredibly dark back stories – abuse, abuse, abuse, abuse, abuse. It’s horrific, and at times it feels as though they’ve gone to the extremes for the back-stories just to show how tough these kids are. However, that’s mostly down to the source material, I should imagine (having not read the novel for years), and indeed I guess it’s making a point that Pennywise’s presence in the town doesn’t only cause of the missing children – his presence is like a virus, infesting people’s homes and making them act cruelling to one another.
The actual horror elements are handled well and efficiently, though at times it feels a little horror-by-numbers, with a lot of the scares well sign-posted. It’s effective, though, if at times (particularly for the first half) it feels as though we’re bounced from horror set-piece to horror set-piece.
Notwithstanding, It was a ridiculously entertaining film, much funnier than I expected, and the performances are uniformly excellent amongst the younger cast.
As for Bill Skarsgård as the new Pennywise? Superb. His portrayal comes across as something like a murderous young child, as he drools and rolls his eyes separately from each other, dancing and joking one minute, trying to eat children the next.
I’m not sure if Chapter 2 can better – or even equal – this first part, but I’m looking forward to finding out.