Based on the horrifying Stephen King novel, Hollywood first brought IT to life with the memorable performance by Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the 1990 mini-series. Now, 27 years later IT is back to terrify a new generation of film lovers.
On a rainy day in Derry, Maine, Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) goes missing while playing outside with a paper boat, the S.S. Georgie, that his older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) had made for him. Fast forward nearly a year later to the summer of 1989, Bill and his group of friends known as The Losers’ Club set out to find Georgie. Along their summer journey they add three new members to the group, the new kid Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the homeschooled farm boy Mike (Chosen Jacobs) and Beverly (Sophia Lillis) the socially unaccepted girl next door. Together the Losers’ learn the truth about their town and ban together to destroy IT also known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who has been terrorizing the town for years and is responsible for the evil that lingers over the small town.
Adapted from the novel, IT is directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama). While in production, IT, hurdled a couple obstacles. Firstly with the change in directors, Cary Fukunaga was set to direct the film originally until Andrés Muschietti took the reins of the project. Another issue was with the films original casting of Pennywise, it was given to Will Poulter who eventually dropped the role, Bill Skarsgard eventually took on the character and was the terrifying clown seen on the big screen. With all the changes that had happened, King fans must have entered this movie with some caution, especially after the disaster that was The Dark Tower. Thankfully King fans should walk out happy with the film as it is one of the better King adaptations.
While the film is not a direct adaptation, it does a very good job of tweaking certain aspects of the book and it modernizes the story having it take place in the late 1980’s rather than the 1950’s. There are also some other details that are left out that cannot be discussed without diving into spoilers.
In the original mini-series the character of Pennywise was what carried it throughout, as for Muschietti’s adaptation that is not the case, the kids in this film are what carry much of the movie having the terrifying Pennywise take a backseat to them. Watching the kids on screen seemed extremely organic and it didn’t feel like they were acting, much of the dialogue sounded like what most thirteen year old boys talk about, vulgar and obscure things we think we’re experts on when in reality we knew nothing at all. The film takes its time by setting up each character of the The Losers’ Club by showing what they fear most. For some character’s their fear is extremely dark and this creates concern for their wellbeing throughout this story.
As for IT, also known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Bill Skarsgard portrays an extremely disturbing character that sets itself apart from Tim Curry’s portrayal. The costume design of this Pennywise adaptation is more menacing and gives a much more frightening look compared to Curry’s. The audience also isn’t given the backstory of Pennywise (Chapter 2 may explain more) but the film does an excellent job at portraying the past events in Derry and how Pennywise has a part in the evil living in the small town.
Now this film isn’t exactly “scary” as many may think walking in, it is more of a physcological rollercoaster. Throughout the story we learn how the character’s fear is what Pennywise feeds off of. But it is the fear these kid’s have that ends up being much more terrifying than Pennywise. We as the audience learn of the darkness that is inside some of these characters and how they may fear things in their personal lives more than they do of IT.
IT is a beautifully shot film that cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung deserves much praise for. He didn’t shy away from quickly creating a dark and twisted feel to the film with its dark colors and settings. Although it has not been confirmed, the sequel to IT is destined to be green lighted thanks to its record breaking success. Hopefully IT: Chapter 2 will continue the great success that Chapter 1 is having and it will complete the story of The Losers’ Club and how they overcome Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
Final Grade: A-