It goes without saying that Stephen King is the master of horror! So when any of his classic books or novellas get a big screen adaptation, you can be sure that fans are going to flock in their numbers. The latest is a remake of the ’90s television movie, IT, arriving less than a month after the underwhelming cinematic expansion of The Dark Tower. Now if I’m being honest, up until this point I haven’t had much faith in this project. This ultimately stems down to my love for the original, as well as the poor performance of most big screen King adaptations. I have found myself a lot more optimistic in recent months, however, and since leaving the cinema I can gladly report that the movie exceeds expectations.
Despite having its fair share of hurdles to overcome, we finally get the big screen adaptation of IT that we deserve thanks to director Andy Muschietti. Working of a script that is co-written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman the talent delivers a product that embraces the novel’s strengths, whilst remaining unique. The almost effortless way in which the director instils fear into our young cast not only brings a sense of dread and suspense, but it also helps build them into a much stronger unit. In doing this we are given a coming of age story that balances horror and comedy in a sinister, yet charming manner, playing on our sense of compassion.
Though it’s only natural that moviegoers will look forward to seeing the eerily creepy Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), it is the younger cast members that make this movie into the success it is. Having already endured a lifetime of bullying and ridicule, it is easy to feel sympathetic towards The Losers’ Club, with their individual run-ins with Pennywise only adding to this. Despite this tense atmosphere, our young cast still embrace what it’s like to be a child, with the brutally honest dialogue and boisterous attitude bringing some much needed warmth. They also handle the more serious aspects of this narrative perfectly, with Jaeden Lieberher (Bill) and Sophia Lillis (Beverly) particularly standing out throughout all this.
One of my main concerns heading into this flick was the design of Pennywise, with the shape-shifting monster looking plain wrong in my opinion. Having now sat through the movie’s 135 minute runtime, I have to admit that I was totally wrong. Not only does Bill Skarsgård do a fabulous job of bringing this maniacal being to life, but the visual effects team also manage to contort Pennywise into one of the most visually intense horror villains of all time. A lot of this ultimately comes down to the times this villain catches our Losers’ Club individually, as from the first encounter with Bill’s brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) to the odd moment he catches them off guard down the well, Skarsgård retains an infectiously shocking tone.
IT is a triumph, being one of the best Stephen King adaptations in recent years. Delivering a horror movie that embraces the spirit of the source material, whilst striving to stand out on its own, the cast and crew give us a product that is both sinister and charming. Whether it’s the eerily creepy nature of Pennywise or the heart and determination of The Losers’ Club, this coming of age story is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat, with the second chapter having a lot to live up to.
(9 / 10)