Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer.
Plot: The town of Derry, Maine has been plagued by the unexplained disappearances of its children every 27 years. When a group of 7 young outcasts find a connection to the disappearances, they are confronted by the manifestation of their worst fears.
The production history of the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s IT has been a turbulent one, languishing in development hell since 2009 and going through no less that 3 directors & 2 Pennywise castings, the writing on the wall for this adaptation didn’t look good. With much of the world still viewing the story of IT through the rose-tinited goggles of nostalgia for the 1990 made for TV adaptation which starred the excellent Tim Curry as Pennywise, one of the only things that actually stands up to the test of time with that particular production but that’s a different blog post altogether.
So what of Muschetti’s IT? Well firstly, this is a great film, notice I didn’t just say great horror film? It is a great horror film, that much is self-evident pretty quickly into the films duration, It’s scares are effective and plentiful and it’s big bad is tremendously realised by Bill Skarsgård’s note perfect portrayal of interdimentional baddie Pennywise but this is also a great film in its own right, irrespective of genre. It’s superbly cast, well adapted and shot. It has a fantastic sense of time and place, the late 80’s vibe is stamped effectively with the fashion of the time, cinema posters and marquees for films like Batman & Beetlejuice and some superb choices in music are also employed featuring the likes of The Cure, Anthrax, XTC and The Replacements to name a few and a great reoccurring joke with one Losers love of New Kids On The Block confirm its late 80’s setting wonderfully. I have to say, this adaptation of IT puts the 1990 TV miniseries to shame, this is IT how it should be portrayed, no shoddy acting and dodgy pacing here, it’s taut, tense, well acted, frequently funny and pays an enormous amount of care in respecting the source material.
The cast in IT are utterly fantastic, particularly the younger contingent who portray The Loser Club, the coming-of-age feel of their camaraderie locks in perfectly, Finn Wolfhard’s Richie being a consistent high point with his incessant and often hilarious wisecracking that stays on the right side of irritation for the film’s duration due in part to his fantastic sparring interplay with Jack Dylan Grazer’s Eddie. The most obvious of questions asked of IT is aimed at Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise, just how does he stack alongside Tim Curry’s performance? I feel this question is like asking to compare Jack Nicholson’s & Heath Ledger’s Joker, they are both fantastic performances in their own right but are polar opposites and everyone is going to have their preference and I must say, possibly controversially, Skarsgård actually pips it for me. There is an almost childlike quality Skarsgård brings to the character which is as fascinating as it is disturbing, turning from seemingly innocent (well, for a clown in a drain anyway) to creepy to outright terrifying on a dime during the film’s opening 5 minutes, its nuanced, expertly so and an absolute joy to behold. There is a general feel that the character here is much more 3-Dimensional and well realised than Curry’s version, no disrespect to him, he was without doubt the best thing about the TV miniseries but as with Ledger’s Joker, this is on another level entirely.
I highly recommend you view IT. An 80’s kid is going to love it for its perfectly captured & conveyed nostalgia, an avid cinema-goer is going to love its Spielberg-esque coming-of-age camaraderie and horror fans, particularly Stephen King fans, are going to be very happy with its scares and obvious love & respect for its source material. This is how you handle a big screen adaptation, without a doubt the strongest horror offering of the year so far.