The new adaptation of one of Stephen King’s greatest works is here. But does IT float? Find out right now!
Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Finn Wolfhard
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Stephen King has always had a rough time at the cinema (just look at what happened to my beloved The Dark Tower), so the positive buzz surrounding IT, the new adaptation of his 1986 mega novel, came as a surprise to everyone, including King himself. But amazingly, IT lives up to the hype, and stands as one of the new modern horror movies that’s a definite must see.
Much of that is from director Andy Muschietti, who gives IT a dominating sense of dread from the opening scene. Derry, Maine is a town filled with secrets and darkness that bubble just under the surface, and Muschietti is able to tap into this major aspect of the novel that would’ve completely undercut the movie if it wasn’t there. Detailing only the first half of the original novel, IT touches on the feelings of adolescence where you’re just at the cusp of realizing that the world around you can be a dark and scary place, and as great as Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is (I’ll get to him soon), the real heart and soul of the movie is the Loser’s Club.
The Loser’s Club is, simply put, a fantastic group of child actors. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard (who you may remember from a little show called Stranger Things), Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Olef, and especially Sophia Lillis inhabit their characters in such a way that it’s impossible to not fall in love with them. The group of Bill, Richie, Bev, Stanley, Mark, Eddie, and Ben feel like characters we’ve known forever, because we sympathize with them. They’re not the cool kids in school, they’re the outcasts just trying to survive the day without getting beat up by the local bullies, and they share an unbreakable bond that’s not unlike the one you see in movies like Stand By Me or even on the already mentioned Stranger Things. Speaking of that pop culture behemoth, this adaptation owes a lot to Stranger Things, from the 80’s nostalgia to even the updated 1989 setting (the novel has the child timeline take place in the 50’s), but that’s more of a nod to the King influences on Stranger Things, not a way to capitalize on that runaway train of a Netflix hit.
It’s really hard to pick a favorite Loser, but if I had to, the one that stands out as a star in the making is Sophia Lillis, who not only has the difficult job of being the sole female member of the Losers Club, but also being in some of the movies’ most difficult and frightening scenes, both against Pennywise and not. Lillis has a natural ability around her, and her screen presence is undeniable. The same can be said for Finn Wolfhard’s Richie, who steals the movie with some of the best jokes. Hearing his constant banter with the guys, even while fighting Pennywise, are some of the best moments of the movie.
Speaking of Pennywise, there were some big clown sized shoes for Bill Skarsgard to fill after Tim Curry’s famous performance in the TV movie from the early 90’s, and he definitely gives the ancient evil a new spin. Skarsgard’s Pennywise is more animalistic than Curry’s take, and gives the ancient evil being the unsettling feeling of a creature struggling to keep his base instincts in check. Skarsgard’s gives a strange, almost darkly humorous spin on this famous movie monster, and his ability to go from oddly charming to completely menacing is truly a sight to behold. You may think you’re ready for the infamous “Georgie scene” from the trailer, but I assure you, the second you see Skarsgard’s Pennywise in action, you will be both in awe and terrified at what will come next.
However, as good as Skarsgard’s performance is, there are a few little weird CGI effects that stick out when it comes to some of Pennywise’s transformations. They’re not bad special effects by any means, but there are moments in the film that I feel could’ve benefited from a practical effect instead of a computer generated one. Luckily, these moments are few and far between.
When all is said and done, IT isn’t just an apology to King fans for Dark Tower, it’s also an apology to us for any previous cinematic misfire of the horror master’s work. This is a hard R film, where children are in real peril and swear like sailors. In a lot of ways, it’s a wonder that this adaptation of IT even got made, so the fact that it’s as good as it is seems like a blessing we don’t deserve. Even if you are deathly afraid of clowns (and some of you may develop a fear after watching this movie), I think this is an absolute must see movie. It may be petrifying, but it’s also one of the sweetest and most heartfelt movies of the year.