In a world full of remakes, reboots, reimaginings, recalibrations, relaunches and rejigs, you’d be forgiven for mouthing obscenities at the news that Stephen King’s famed IT was being adapted once more. While you can be excused for initially not being all that enthused about this new IT, the mood started to change once the terrifying early footage of the film was slipped out in teasers and trailers. So, was this a worthy new take on a classic tale, or was it merely a needless rejig that relied on nostalgia and once more stepping through played-out tropes?
Luckily for us – and, it has to be said, to the surprise of many – Andy Muschietti’s IT was a stunning effort that stands as one of the best films that 2017 dished up. Despite having been stuck spinning its wheels since as far back as 2009, audiences were treated to a true modern classic of the horror genre when Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise was let loose on Derry, Maine; Skarsgard himself joining after the similarly left-field pick of We’re the Millers’ Will Poulter dropped out of the project due to scheduling conflicts.
Plot-wise, Pennywise is a shape-shifting entity that surfaces every 27 years in the search of feeding its hefty appetite for fear, chaos, carnage and bloodshed. Unfortunately for the group of youngsters dubbed the Losers Club, Pennywise has risen once more – and he has them in his sinister sights! Of course, this was a story previously adapted as a two-part mini-series back in 1990; an adap that is itself rightly beloved my many. What Muschietti’s IT does, though, is that it gives a far more fleshed-out look at the home lives of the Losers Club, highlighting the individual plights that they face on a daily basis in addition to the snarling clown that’s now started to haunt them at every turn. Then there’s the setting, spruced up to take place in the late 1980s. Likewise, this new take on King’s classic tale also increases the horror element of its playfully eerie Pennywise. While many genre fans have been longtime fans of Tim Curry’s turn as Pennywise in Tommy Lee Wallace’s ’90 adaptation, this latest incarnation of the creepy clown is a completely different beast. In fact, in comparison it actually makes Curry’s version look rather tame. Still, that’s not to say that the 1990 IT is now redundant, for it still has its own unique charm, but it’s more an indication of the stronger, more blunt and brutal horror angle that’s played up this time around. And this is truly edge-of-your-seat terror the likes of which have rarely been seen in a mainstream movie for many a year.
For the cast, the young crew of actors who make up the Losers Club are all pitch-perfect for their roles. While Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard may often steal the show as his Richie constantly quips wise and gets the majority of the best lines, it’s Sophia Lillis and Jaeden Lieberher who stand out amongst the fantastic ensemble effort. As Bev and Bill, respectively, Lillis and Lieberher have the most interesting stories to sink their teeth into – Bev with a disturbing home life centred around an extremely overprotective father, Bill as the grieving older brother of poor young Georgie whose disappearance is the launching point for this story. Then, of course, there’s Bill Skarsgard, magically balancing the childish charm of Pennywise with the utter dread that the character can conjure up at a moment’s notice. If Tim Curry’s Pennywise was Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Skarsgard’s version is Heath Ledger’s Clown Prince of Crime on his absolutely worst day. Skarsgard absolutely mesmerises every time he’s on screen, and he’s a thoroughly creepy beast that will stay with you long after the film concludes.
As for the bonus content of this release, the deleted scenes are extensive (and may well be reinstated on the main picture for Muschietti’s upcoming director’s cut) and the featurettes make for some fun, fascinating viewing; with featurettes showcasing Pennywise, the bonding between the young actors involved in the film, and then even some input from Stephen King himself. For those with 4K capability, the ‘4K Ultra HD’ release of the movie is simply phenomenal. Colours vibrantly pop, crystal clear carnage unravels, and the 4K transfer is one of the very best transfers we’ve ever seen.
All in all, IT is easily one of the best horror pictures to come around in years, particularly in a mainstream sense. The only downer? That’s the wait for the second, concluding chapter of this tale in which we see the now-adult Losers Club return to tackle Pennywise 27 years down the line. Until then, this stunning first chapter should keep your nightmares ticking over nicely.
Special Features: Three featurettes / Eleven deleted scenes
IT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANDY MUSCHIETTI / SCREENPLAY: GARY DAUBERMAN, CARY FUKUNAGA, CHASE PALMER / STARRING: BILL SKARSGARD, JAEDEN LIEBERHER, JEREMY RAY TAYLOR, SOPHIA LILLIS, FINN WOLFHARD, JACK DYLAN GRAZER, WYATT OLEFF, CHOSEN JACOBS, JACKSON ROBERT SCOTT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (DIGITAL DOWNLOAD), JANUARY 15TH (BLU-RAY/DVD)