After entering production in 2009, going through numerous writers, directors and actors, the big screen adaptation of Stephen Kings classic novel IT finally reached screens this year. I’ve been a big King fan ever since I first read The Dead Zone and IT is without a doubt one of my favorite books of all time. Obviously I’ve watched the 1990 miniseries with Tim Curry and his outstanding performance as Pennywise, the shape shifting, child eating monster who’s favorite appearance is a clown, but to be honest, his performance was pretty much the sole reason to watch it. So has director Andy Muschietti finally made a worthy adaptation of IT? Yes. A thousand times yes. I’m going to go into spoiler territory for this review so if you want to go into the film knowing nothing stop reading now.
Set in the fictional town of Derry, the film updates the setting from the late 50’s to the late 80’s. With numerous children disappearing over a short period of time, the film follows a group of kids from various backgrounds who are somehow drawn together and slowly come to realize that there is a dark presence in their town behind it all. This self described Losers Club eventually venture into ITs lair and defeat it…for now (there’s a reason this is chapter one of two films). Since the book is over a thousand pages long, you’re going to get quite a lot of stuff cut or changed in the translation to film. However, the filmmakers have done a fantastic job of keeping it as faithful to the book as possible keep even the pickiest of fans happy but at the same time changing enough to bring a fresh take to the story. You thought the scene at the beginning of the novel when Georgie gets his arm torn off by Pennywise was scary? Holy shit, they ramp it right up to 11 in the film. As soon as that scene ended, I knew they weren’t going to be holding back at all for the rest of the film. There were loads of jump scares throughout the film, but they were tremendously effective and didn’t feel gratuitous or cheaply tacked on at all. The projector scene in particular was really well done and a good update of the scene in the book where the kids are going through old photos that start coming to life.
Credit should definitely go to the Losers Club themselves. Their acting in this film is brilliant. By the end of the film you really get a sense of closeness between them all after being through a hellish nightmare like that. Sophia Lillis and Jack Dylan Grazer as Beverly Marsh and Eddie Kasbrak were particular stand out for me and hopeful we see more of them in future. Finn Wolfhard was very funny as Richie Tozier as well, bringing some much needed comedy to give us a break from the constant horror. Really the whole cast deserves loads of credit for bringing fantastic acting to every role. The banter between them all felt realistic, just how you expect kids their age to sound. And you can’t help but cheer for them at the end, when they all team up to take down Pennywise, making him realize for the first time that maybe he’s underestimated the children he’s been feeding on for so long and that they might actually be a threat to him. As a wee side note, if Bill Hader isn’t cast as the adult version of Richie, I’m going to riot.
So what about Pennywise? How does Bill Skarsgård compare to Tim Curry? To be honest, you can’t really compare the two. Whereas Curry owned the screen by hamming it up every time he was on it, Skarsgård goes a different way for his portrayal. He gives the character a childlike quality, taking an almost perverse pleasure in terrifying his victims before killing them. His mannerisms also play a huge part in making this version of Pennywise truly horrifying, whether it’s keeping one of his eyes focused towards the audience almost constantly or contorting himself from out of a fridge…while upside down. This wasn’t done with CGI by the way, he can actually make one of his eyes point in a different direction and he trained with a professional contortionist so he could unfurl himself out of that fridge. He’s managed to take the role and make it his own. I would honestly put him up their with Heath Ledgers iconic take on the Joker. Seriously one of the scariest screen villains in a long time.
As I said at the beginning this is one of the best horror films I have seen in a long time. The acting is brilliant, the scares and special effects are terrific and with a seriously unnerving score by Benjamin Wallfisch, it all adds up to a fantastic cinema experience. IT is definitely a worthy adaptation of a classic novel and I cannot recommend it enough. Honestly one of the best films I have seen this year. Roll on IT Chapter Two!