Director: Andy Muschietti
Stars: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor
IT is a unique property in the world of cinema. General movie buffs, fans of the Stephen King novel, and even those of us who like to Instagram our beloved made-for-tv movie box sets pretty much all agreed that the story was ready for a remake.
A reboot rallying cry is a strange thing in the age of unwanted remakes, sequels, prequels, and other bizarre transparent cash grabs.
IT is a tough nut to crack, as Andrew Barker’s said in his review for Variety. The story is more than a thousand pages long, spans 27 years, and has a supernatural villain with objectives that are somewhat murky. In the wrong hands the narrative could easily become a confused mess of meandering storylines and messy tones.
Director Andy Muschietti tackles these problems head on by focusing on only the first half of the story and keeping the 2+ hour film tightly centered on the kids’ fight with the evil Pennywise.
I probably don’t need to tell anyone visiting a site called “Addicted to Horror Movies” what the plot of IT is, but just in case…
IT is the story of a boy named Bill whose little brother goes missing after an encounter with a terrifying clown hiding in a sewer. Nearly a year later, Billy and his friends discover that they too are being haunted, and it’s up to them to find a way to destroy the evil that stalks their town.
This film is a pleasure to watch. Even a cynical horror fan will be won over by the perfect blend of mass appeal and genre die-hard fan service. No matter how critically you go into this film, you’ll likely be won over by the time you come to the memorable Beverly scene (you know which one I mean).
I was struck by how well Muschietti nailed the tone and style of an 80s film without bogging it down with a bunch of superficial tropes and references.
In fact, nothing in the movie seems to be an overt reference to another film. Don’t get me wrong, light ones are in there (my friend and I looked at each other with furrowed brows as we tried to remember if Nightmare 5 really came out in 1989; I could have sworn it was ‘91). But there are no moments and sequences directly lifted from other genre-defining films. This movie stands on its own, which is a refreshing experience.
The members of the Loser’s Club are wonderfully human (if not always three-dimensional). They explore, fight, and curse like real children. It’s impossible not to be charmed by their enthusiastic performances.Finn Wolfhard is a standout as the epitome of 12-year-old boy tropes. Penis jokes and f-bombs fly with abandon, which is actually how 12-year-olds talk when their moms aren’t around.
But is it scary?
IT is equal parts creepy and threatening. Whether Pennywise is luring children to secluded areas with haunting figments of terror or school yard bullies are stalking our heroes with maniacal intentions, the film consistently delivers.
The scares are carefully crafted, with unconventional surprises placed lovingly throughout. The story’s landscape is like a rollercoaster–with just enough time to catch your breath before the next drop. The obligatory jump scares are here, but they’re mixed in with a whole heap of twists constructed to frighten all types of horror fans.
More importantly, these scares are rooted in a fully realized world with its own logic and rules. Perhaps a turn-of-the-century clown doesn’t scare you in real life, but it scares these kids so it scares you, too.
Even the things that didn’t frighten me made sense in the context of the film. I’m not terribly scared of rows and rows of tiny teeth, but being bitten by the thing under the bed is a classic childhood fear. Likewise, I’m not made overly concerned by someone running at high speeds (with a bass drop no less), but I can let it go, as fear of a bigger, faster creatures is not uncommon.
So what about Pennywise?
No review would be complete without a nod to the story’s main baddie. Bill Skarsgard is a delightfully dangerous Pennywise. Of course, comparisons to Tim Curry’s turn as the evil clown are inevitable, but Skarsgard holds his own, creating a character that is in turns creepy and funny. Does it disturb me in the same way as Curry? No. But I don’t think he has to, and he did disturb me. In fact, if I’m going to be completely honest with you, I had a yell-out-loud moment in this film. That never happens to me, but it did.
At it’s heart, IT is a monster story, and it functions best when it plays into those classic tropes. Muschietti knows this and let’s the story grow to a satisfying conclusion.
Don’t wait. See IT.