Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Leiberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton
Director: Andy Muschietti
Stephen King’s books are a perennial source of movie adaptations, but for every wonderful adaptation there are several lackluster or downright laughable ones. It was hard to know which way the new It was going to go and I felt a little apprehensive about them dividing the story into two films, as it felt like a potential cash in.
However, not only was I pleasantly surprised but the new It is one of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years.
It, the title, refers to a creature that manifests itself as a clown called Pennywise that stalks drains and sewers of the idyllic town of Derry, in Maine, murdering and eating children. It’s the late 80’s and Pennywise takes Georgie, the younger brother of Bill, who finds it hard to accept that his brother is really dead. He joins forces with his friends, all of whom are misfits and outsiders, to face the evil that adults can see. But it’s no easy task to kill a killer clown.
The film manages a wonderful balance of 80’s nostaglia, the warmth of childhood bonds and absolute terror. Which is a wonderful thing. It’s hard with an ensemble cast to make sure that each person is a defined individual, and this film manages that and also to add enough humour that each person is likable and realistic. They’re a lovable bunch which makes it harder to watch them being menaced. You’ll recognise Wolfhard from Stranger Things, but all the cast are really good, with I think Sophia Lillis as Beverley (and a shoo in for Molly Ringwald) being a stand out. She’s plucky and warm, funny and beautiful, but also quite a brave and moral character.
Of course, an 80’s set film would not be complete without the local bully, and Henry Bowers (Hamilton) looks a lot like River Phoenix, managing to be menacing and psychotic without being one dimensional.
But it’s all about the scares, and I love the design of this film so much. Pennywise is brought to life by Bill Skarsgard as an older style clown who chews up the scenery and small children with aplomb. It never relies on jump scares or body counts, but rather builds tension through menace and effects. I love the way you never know where and how the clown will manifest itself. Pennywise is truly creative. I also love the way he taunts and cajoles his victims. I think the use of effects and the way that they move and sound is really terrifying. I had such a good time watching this film.
There are a few deviations from the source material, but I think that on the whole, this first chapter of the story manages to capture the feel and the themes of the book really well. And Pennywise is once again a terrifying prospect. I’m really looking forward to the next film.
See It If: I loved this film so much, one for horror and Stephen King fans.