Andy Muschietti’s IT brings some dark themes to this latest version of the Stephen King story (which I am still to read) but also has a great blend of humour amongst the scares. Only remembering the original TV mini-series vaguely meant that this was a real treat, bringing the story to life in vibrant colour and really well acted by all involved. For all of Tim Curry’s brilliance as the original Pennywise, this film is pacier, scarier and less bloated than the ageing version.
Basing the childrens’ timeline in the 80s uses much of what made Stranger Things such a success; IT also uses the familiar buddy concept and incorporates the banter that worked so well. I don’t think this film would have worked if they had kept the slow, plodding pace of the original series, instead we are introduced to each of the characters as they come up against the local bully, Henry and his crew, and are shown to be the losers, the outcasts, the ones no-one wants to be friends with. As such they gravitate to each other.
When it becomes apparent that kids of Derry are disappearing at an alarming rate, things start to go up a notch. Pennywise makes more frequent and more alarming appearances, unlike the big stretches we got with the original. The scares come thick and fast and from all angles. Tailor-made scares ensure that there is something for everyone, a wide variety of frights. For each and every taste, a scare.
Richie (Finn Wolfhard) manages to get most of the best lines throughout, and with a great deal of humour amongst some genuinely scary moments. Jaeden Lieberher is the leader of this ragtag bunch of losers and he does well as the stuttering Billy, driven on by the loss of his little brother Georgie. The supporting cast all play their parts in making this such an enjoyable film: Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), Wyatt Oleff (Stanley), Chosen Jacobs (Mike) Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie) and Nicholas Hamilton as Henry. The standout performance for me was Bill Skarsgaard as Pennywise and he is a revelation: malevolent, scary and much more visible in this version. As much as Tim Curry’s version is creepy, this new version is downright terrifying.
With some great tunes in there to keep the 80s vibe running, it looks authentic for the time and, most importantly, feels authentic. It is a strange thing to say but this is a fun scary movie. Not in a tongue in cheek way, but it was a blast of nostalgia and scares and some really good kid-level banter thrown in there too. That being said it doesn’t shy away from some hard truths; some of the home lives and experiences that these kids are going through is really quite harrowing.
The effects and visual themes are superb from start to finish. Pennywise’s many guises are wonderfully realised and brought to life. The pacing is spot on and at over 2 hours it had the potential to drag but the action just kept coming but not at the expense of the story or the character development.
IT has it, whatever it is. Chapter 2 will be interesting to see how they manage to transpose the elements from this one into a grown up scenario.