Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher & Bill Skarsgård
Review Author: Shaun
Rating: 4.5/5 clown beers or whatever the hell Pennywise drinks!
27 years after the original cult classic mini-series, IT (1990), Andy Muschietti brings a re-imagining that takes The Losers Club as kids which were easily the best part of the mini-series and fleshes it out allowing for more content from the books whilst attempting to not overdo itself. I won’t lie, the failure of The Dark Tower made me a little paranoid on the success of IT, but from the moment we see the infamous Georgie and Pennywise scene, my paranoia was washed away like Georgie’s boat.
It has some of the best character development of any film this year. The kids in The Loser’s Club are all fantastic with each child given their own time to develop and to connect with the audience. I guarantee you’ll look at each of the kids and think to yourself that kid was me when I was younger. The way these kids speak to each other is so believable, the dialogue and interactions are exactly how you’d expect kids to talk to each other when their parents aren’t around, a lot of cursing and dark humour, especially from Richie. I’d love to go into each of the performances but it would take up all the review. In short, each of the child actors are just as good as each other, quite rare nowadays.
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise has big shoes to fill after Tim Curry but manages to pull it off by being both terrifying and a little comical. However, if you haven’t seen anything about IT then don’t assume that Pennywise is just an evil clown as people who have read the book know there’s more to him than meets the eye. Fear is the dominant theme of the film and not only manages to highlight the kid’s personal fears, but also the fears of the real world. There are directions this film takes that are very surprising and completely unexpected. Many horror films with children tend to be very careful with their treatment. This film isn’t afraid to hurt these characters and put them in real danger. There’s a surprising amount of psychological scares and gore which makes the mini-series tame in comparison.
For very eagle-eyed observers, you may pick up one or two scenes that subtly address the fear of maturity. This new take on IT is about semiotic dreams, with visual imagery connected with puberty and developing adult thoughts. There is one scene where the character Beverly is buying pads. She is being very cautious and hiding this from others. this subtle scene sets the foundation for one of the biggest scares if the film which is some clever foreshadowing.
The Bullies, led by Henry are just as dangerous as Pennywise. While they pose a great threat, their bullying methods go from horsing around and then ramping up to psychotic levels. To me, their intimidation towards the kids was a bit too extreme. The sewers play a big part in the film and the sets are fantastic under the sparse lighting. Water shimmers on the sides of the sewers to create a tense atmosphere that makes you feel more claustrophobic watching the scenes unfold.
I look at directors like Stanley Kubrick and Rob Reiner who took the source material of King’s novels and made the scares unique and unsettling. Scares that still hold up to this day. Andy Muschietti has utilized a common trend among modern day horror films, with a few too many jump scares and irritatingly loud noises that feels unnecessary. They’re frightening for sure, but the tactics used are a little cheap. Instead, the scares are more unique and visually interesting as we see how Pennywise can take different forms and bend reality.
Pennywise is a haunting presence throughout the film. The only issue is determining exactly what kind of presence is where the film falls over itself. Is Pennywise a demon or some form of supernatural entity? We never truly get the answer. Those who have read the book will have a better understanding. There is a sense that the film is trying to capitalize on the success of Stranger Things. The film could have been set in any decade but the revival of 80’s pop culture was probably the defining influence here.
It’s not my job to recommend seeing a film, I am merely a man with a keyboard telling you his thoughts. However, IT being the most hyped horror film of the year, It definitely meets expectations and is a must-see. What people are going to like is how relatable the kids are, and the portrayal of Pennywise. IT may not be as unique as other Stephen King adaptations, but it is a strong contender for being one of the best.