IT

PrintE-mail Written by Charlie Oughton

A single red balloon drifts up the New Line Cinema logo, a starting wink to those who know. Director Andrés (Andy) Muschietti’s first of two adaptations of Stephen King’s story of the clown-shaped entity who terrorises a town does the Tango with everything you love about horror… and makes changes so horrible to the source material that you’ll love IT even more.

The story starts in Derry, a place of jolly picket fences, lovers’ lanes and disappearing-presumed-dead kids. A group of young outcasts known as the Losers notice and set about trying to stop the evil in their midst. So, are they any good? The answer is a resounding ‘waka waka!’, as Richie ‘Trashmouth’ Tozier would say. The standout is newcomer Sophia Lillis as Beverly. She can play terror, amour, and weary knowingness beyond her years and hers are the scenes that skate closest to the adult content in the book. Her intensity is balanced by Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as Richie. Wolfhard’s slapstick is fantastic. This kid makes the most inappropriate jokes at the worst possible times in such a throwaway and exuberant fashion that he is utterly hilarious. Group sequences feel like a modern, hardcore version of Stand by Me. Jack Dylan Grazer’s Eddie has feisty inner steel, Jeremy Ray Taylor is an insightful and beautifully humorous Ben, Chosen Jacobs is the dependable (if slightly underused) Mike and Wyatt Oleff’s Stan perennially sits on a knife edge of sarcasm and terror. Midnight Special’s Jaeden Lieberher invests Bill with a deep sense of loss and thrusts in with the character’s dynamite strength at the mid-way point. The adults are sadistic without becoming stock types.

King’s Constant Readers can rest (un)easy knowing IT gives new surprises in well-loved ways, with a Nightmare on Elm Street-ish vibe running through set pieces that are seat-jump scary, verbally delightfully daft and deeply unnerving. It’s like Stranger Things on steroids. A further horror is Nicholas Hamilton. His Henry barely hides the broken boy behind the ripped-shirt swagger and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung’s well-used camera pauses make the narrative arc make sense.  While key psychological and canonical aspects of the novel remain, things that would seem out of time to today’s teenagers are gone. IT is scary partly because the action is more realistic and the magic of the story takes more than mouthing a few words to summon.

Oh, and Pennywise? Bill Skarsgard bites himself a chunk of history. The clown plays like an overgrown kid gone wrong. The jokes are loving and spiteful, the movements joyful and mechanical. He is supported by a Guillermo del Torro-like set and an array of monsters including Mama’s subtly-shot Javier Botet to give the Losers a run for their money. The pacing is perfect, the soundtrack sublime and varied from rock to other acts on the block.

Muschietti’s IT is classic King but without the twee that sometimes tiptoes into adaptations of his work. IT is horror with heart and high jinks. If taking on a killer clown and all IT’s compadres leads to the adventure the Losers have, you’ll float, too.

IT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANDY MUSCHIETTI / SCREENPLAY: CHASE PALMER, CARY FUKUNAGA, GARY DAUBERMAN / STARRING: JAEDEN LIEBERHER, JEREMY RAY TAYLOR, SOPHIA LILLIS, FINN WOLFHARD, BILL SKARSGÅRD / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 8TH

Expected Rating: 8 out of 10

Actual Rating: 


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