Published on September 11th, 2017 | by voxx0
Length: 135 minutes
Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Javier Botet, Nicholas Hamilton
Plot: In the small town of Derry, Maine, children are disappearing at an alarming rate, and the mysterious culprit appears to be an immortal shape shifting clown. It falls to seven young misfits, the self-styled Losers’ Club, to investigate.
It was the year 1986. Benny King’s chart topping hit ‘Stand by Me’ had stepped back as yet another Stephen King adaptation (adapted from The Body) was released. King had started writing his next novel – the seminal 1,136 page novel ‘IT’ - where a small town in Maine has had a spate of child disappearances from a demon called Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Back in 1990 this was adapted into a TV mini series, when the aptly insane British actor Tim Curry played Pennywise in a terrifying, show stopping performance. And after years of waiting, King Fanatics are yet again treated to another new adaptation of the novel, from ‘Mama’s’ director Andy Muschietti, and as the aptly written tagline says, it definitely does float.
In reference to ‘Stand By Me’, within the first five minutes after the introduction of the ‘loser club’, a bunch of kids who constantly get bullied by kids bigger than them. They communicate with banter, they curse and they pick on each other. Perhaps it’s a subtle entry to another King adaptation, but it plays a major part in their story, gradually forming a sense of comedy and heart ship between them. There’s drama in their story too; the leader of the group, Jaeden Lieberher’s 13-year-old Bill, suffers the loss of his younger brother. His parents have given up, but he is insistent on finding his brother, convinced that he’s missing somewhere. As they start to explore the town for any evidence, they begin to see Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise haunting their inner fears in confident form.
Skarsgård is terrifying as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, sporting a clown face with a painted smile which goes above his deep red eyes, dressed in white baggy clothes, with a catchy voice and laugh to go with it – essentially he’s a friendly figure drawing in an audience at a circus. Yet he can shape shift into the kids’ inner fears, from a dead child, through a narcissistic father to germs, which thanks to the effects team look as real as possible. Like Godzilla or the Dinosaurs in ‘Jurassic Park’, Pennywise appears in short yet terrifying spouts, which as the film progresses become scarier than the last. And thanks to Skarsgård’s heart-stopping performance it doesn’t get any better than this. The child actors’ performances are incredible too; they deal with drama, with fear and with the emotion that comes with it all in spades way beyond their age group.
But you’re probably asking, just how scary is ‘IT’? This seems to depend on your average horror intake threshold. Seemingly oblivious to any trends or the changes to the genre in recent years, Muschietti goes with the straightforward approach to some of the horror tropes, opting for the jump scares, the fast whipped camera pans zooming into the terrifying faces, and finally the ‘Psycho’-esque strings banging and striking harshly at elements of the film. Muschietti’s approach is slow; he slowly adds these jump scares, each more effective than the last, striking the kids’ fears one take at a time. This all adds up to the film’s final approach in the third act, when Pennywise shows himself for the monster he really is.
And it all pays off in the end as I can confidently say this is perhaps the best horror film in recent years. It’s terrifying, it’s spooky and it’s darkly entertaining as the new Pennywise may just be the best horror demon EVER…
VERDICT: A potent, bold, and terrifying horror story which solidly manages to deal with the collection of scary, hallucinatory, ludicrous, nightmarish images from King’s novel. And may just be the best King adaptation in recent years.
- By Corey Denford