This retelling of the Loser’s encounter with Pennywise the Clown brings the horror to new audiences.
RATING: ★★★★ (out of four stars)
The stories Stephen King tells have long been a staple of the horror genre. His novels convey some of the most terrifying tales known to man. There have been many film adaptations of his work over most of his career. Perhaps his most acclaimed (and terrifying) novel is It. Spanning almost 1200 pages, this beast of a novel had previously been adapted into a mini series in the 1990s. Now in 2017, It is receiving a reboot for the big screen with the first film in a two part series of a reboot, helmed by Mama director Andy Muschietti.
The book tells two stories; one from the main characters childhood and one in 27 years later. This film tells the first story, that follows the kids adventure through the small Maine town of Derry in 1989. Audiences are pulled in from the very first opening scene where Georgie meets Pennywise. The same uneasy and terrified feelings that came with reading that first chapter are brought to life in cinematic glory. It is one of the most faithful film adaptations of a book in recent memory. All of the characters feel like they crawled right off the page to star in the movie. There are subtle nods to other details, such as Bill’s bike. The script takes a few liberties switching up some scenes from the book, but they are welcome here as it allows for a better story to be told in a visual medium.
The cast may have been the most perfect pairing of actors in a movie ever. The kids that play the Losers are perfect. Jaeden Lieberher as Stuttering Bill and Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier standout above the rest. Jaeden brings a nervous charm that is required of the character while flawlessly nailing the dialogue through a tricky stutter, and Finn proves he is a capable young actor by bringing some genuine comedy that keeps the movie from getting so bogged down. Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh brings a strong female character to the the gang of boys and makes her feel more essential to the story than a token girl in a horror story. While the rest of the Losers may not get as fleshed out as they do in the book, the chemistry between the kids is definitely there.
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Dancing Clown gives one of the most terrifying performances ever to be given in a film. Every scene he is in will send chills down every viewer’s spine. While he does not have that much dialogue outside his fear inducing “you’ll float too” lines, the aura he brings to the character infects every scene with fear-inducing tension that lingers long after he has left the screen. One of the genius qualities of the character, a clown who preys on the fear of children, is how he is able to seamlessly shift from an seemingly innocent friend to a horrifying demon at the snap of a finger. It may be sacrilege to say, but Skarsgård’s may greatly overshadow Tim Curry’s classic performance in the original series.
The production quality of It overall is very sound. The film has very clear and concise direction that realized the full potential of the source material. That, coupled with the set design, allow for the town of Derry and it’s looming cloud of evil to come to life. The cinematography elegantly captures a scene and, with the subtle tilt of a camera, transforms an innocent scene through the eyes of a child into a horrific nightmare. The special effects and make up are used sparingly enough to elevate the otherworldly terror of Pennywise to a whole other level. The film relies on is terrifying atmosphere to realize it’s horrific potential. There are quite a bit of jump scares but they are welcome part of the movie since the play into the very nature of Pennywise’s character, who demands to be seen and feared.
While being both a reboot and a horror blockbuster, It feels fresh with both it’s source material and it’s genre. Muschietti utilizes all of his resources to build a childlike story with his wonderful cast, and the twist it into something unholy with his perfect Pennywise. The production quality is solid enough to create a fear-inducing atmosphere and while it does play into a few jump scare, none of them feel cheap. This is a must see film for any horror fanatic, and opens in theaters everywhere this Friday!