Directed by: Andrés Muschietti
Produced by: Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katsenberg and Barbara Muschietti.
Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman
Based on the novel by: Stephen King
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer and Nicholas Hamilton.
Something sinister is going on in the small town of Derry.
Kids are going missing. Too many kids.
The story begins with Bill Denbrough’s (Jackson Robert Scott) little brother disappearing – first Georgie, then lots of kids. Sometimes a chewed-off arm is found, most of the time they’re just gone.
IT follows a gang of outsiders self-named, The Losers’ Club, losers because what they have in common is they’re all bullied by, The Bowers Gang.
Bill is haunted by his missing little brother, so the summer after Georgie goes missing, The Losers’ Club band together to try to find out why all the kids of Derry are disappearing.
The quest becomes a waking nightmare as the gang follow an ancient horror down the sewers to find a monster literally feeding off the fear of children: Pennywise, the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård).
IT (2017) is the second film translating Stephen King’s novel of the same name from page to screen.
I was terrified when I watched the original, IT (1990), back in the early nineties. But after a re-watch, I took the horror-thriller off my recommended list as the film didn’t date well; the idea still there but the effects contrived and no longer believable.
The film here, directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama (2013)) is a faithful adaptation, once again, holding onto the ideals from the novel – the perspective from that awkward in-between age of childhood to coming to grips with adolescence and all that goes with it: puberty, love, outgrowing parents, and trying to figure out right from wrong while dealing with the cruelty that is other people when you’re an outsider.
There’s a warm honesty to King’s writing, particularly when from the perspective of kids, hence the horror of being right there with them when battling the monsters. And the casting translated that authenticity well (hats off to, Rich Delia, the casting director).
My favourite parts of the film were the coming together of The Losers’ club: motor-mouth Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhand), the hypochondriac, Eddie Kospbrak (Jack Dylan), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), the girl of the group and the bravest of the them all, the loner book-worm Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the African American home-schooled out-of-towner, Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) and OCD Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) – all courageous in their own way. And the humour and chemistry of the gang was a genuine pleasure to watch.
The foundation of the story was watching the kids fight the terror of their own nightmares embodied in the clown that is Pennywise. And here the story was successful.
The horrors that come, and there are many, are unique and surprisingly different to the first adaptation.
Unlike the novel (and original film), where the beginning of the story is set in the 1950s, IT (2017) begins in the 80s, giving that, Stranger Things (2016) vibe with the 80s outfits and soundtrack revolving around the comradery of outsiders coming together as a gang to battle something other-worldly.
But l wasn’t as absorbed and therefore as scared during the confrontations with Pennywise, as it felt like a succession of scary bits rather than a slow build of fear.
Pennywise became more present as the film progressed, with some clever inclusions into the day-to-day, but it’s just so difficult to translate that subtle Stephen King-esq creeping feeling…
What I found more scary was the psychopathic people – the bullies and the adults in the film who were just, wrong.
I felt the scary Pennywise bits could have been paced differently, perhaps less being more.
But overall, a quality horror-thriller with good bones – looking forward to what’s next, from The Well…
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