Score: MUST SEE IN THEATERS IN IMAX 3D
Author: Ariel Landrum
As with any remake, Director Andrew Muschietti of the 2017 IT certainly had a challenge when making this film. He needed to honor the original material while avoiding the regurgitation of nostalgia. The new adaptation – essentially a reboot of the made-for-television mini-series in 1990 – all based on the 1,300-page tome written by Stephen King, does an excellent balancing act of old and new. Like many of King’s works, the focus unravels the notion of childhood innocence with loss and trauma, yet differs with amazing grit and terror.
The novel and this movie start with a young boy chasing a paper boat on a dark rainy day. Donning the iconic red galoshes and a yellow raincoat, he runs to rescue his doomed ship as it’s sucked down the sewer drain. Unbeknownst to him, living among the sewage is a murderous creature that manifests into Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Greeted with hypnotic eyes, yellow buck teeth, and a grotesque smile, this being of nightmares somehow holds the boy’s attention long enough to pull him into the drain. Moviegoers and bibliophiles are left with the seminal line dripping from the monster’s lips, “You’ll float too.”
Months after this haunting event, the real story beings. Viewers are introduced to the protagonists of the narrative, the children of Derry. Through a series of unfortunate events, or some may call fate, the seven kids band together to learn more about the frightening circumstances that have befallen their hometown since its inception.
Following these outcasts that name themselves “The Loser’s Club,” audiences watch as these children endure abusive parents and ruthless school bullies and navigate experiences of first crushes while testing the limits of their friendship and loyalty. If these adolescent challenges weren’t enough, the horror of a shape-shifting killer clown is thrown in. This stark contrast is in keeping with King’s galvanic writing that fuses the traditional “growing up” adventure with pure unimaginable horror.
As the children observe the world around them during long summer days, they realize that the adults ignore the grim that plagues their town. With naive bravery, they stop the terrifying demon that haunts them when they wake.
This is the essence of every origin of IT, which continues to captivate audiences.
The first onscreen Pennywise in 1990 was that of actor Tim Curry, whose colorful classic clown look, complete with a large red nose and puffy jumpsuit, was the epitome of coulrophobia. The initial sight of this deadly monster is gripping and shocking, making it hard to pull away in fear.
The same, and more, can be said of actor Bill Skarsgard’s new Pennywise. While keeping the time-honored look of yellow-orange eyes and white face found in the book and TV picture, his is a more sinister version. Dressed in Elizabethan jester attire full of greys and whites, this bland color palette creates an ominous and ancient version of evil.
Skarsgard amazingly propels his rendition of the beast that lives on fear by speaking with a throaty growl accompanied by bloodcurdling laughs. The actor expertly shifts his expressions easily by widening his eyes or enlarging his smile. Unlike the 1990 interpretation, which mainly kept the same facial aesthetics throughout, the longer this predator would engage with its prey, the more eerie the features, such as changes in eye color or skin cracking.
Muschietti succeeds in his balancing act of directing with a fresh perspective while paying homage to the original novel and film. The horror doesn’t feel rushed, and enough new surprises are needed, which allows this thriller to thrive with a new generation while attracting original fans. Even the youthful cast was the perfect choice for an 80s-era flick, using talented newcomers and some familiar faces.
Those who watch Netflix’s Stranger Things know that actor Finn Wolfhard, who portrays Richie, isn’t new to riding bikes into unknown danger to solve the case of a missing boy. Even actor Sophia Lillis gives a good nod to Molly Ringwald, with short red hair and a freckled face as Beverly, the only girl in The Loser’s Club.
Still, everyone’s question is whether this film is scary or more of a coming-of-age drama. The answer is that it’s both. Each viewer will leave the theater with the scenes that most stick out to them. Some will gravitate towards images of splashing around the local river, while others are inclined to remember the torment of pure evil through Pennywise and its effect on the youngsters. Either way, those who enjoy this new adaptation of IT will align with childlike anticipation of Chapter 2, which is already set for production in the near future.
Director: Andy Muschietti
MPAA Rating: R (for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language)
Screenwriters: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Bill Skarsgård
Genre: Thriller, Horror
New Line Cinema’s horror thriller IT, directed by Andrés Muschietti (“Mama”), is based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, which has been terrifying readers for decades. When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, young kids face their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back centuries.