Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Stephen King, Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Jackson Robert Scott
Swift shot: It isn’t necessarily the IT you remember, but it is something you won’t ever forget!
Stephen King has often said he never really felt that his novels translate well into full length movies, and with few exceptions, I agree with him. But when I heard he was making the miniseries for regular TV back in the ’80s, I wasn’t too thrilled. Nevertheless, despite the censoring, that iteration of IT has always remained a favorite, because I really loved the book. And regardless of what your millennial friends are pushing, Tim Curry is, and always will be, Pennywise the Dancing Clown. However, Bill Skarsgård certainly impressed me as his honorable heir, and this full-length feature film lives up to the hype, IT is a must watch film!
I’ve loved these characters, “The Losers’ Club” kids, ever since I was introduced to them in the novel. They felt so real and relatable to me that I was worried Director Muschietti would never be able to capture the essence of what made them special. Not only did he pull it off, he managed to stun me by giving these well-known characters a modern re-construction that is something special to witness. I heard that he actually sent the young actors to an ’80s primer bootcamp! Lucky kids!
Bill Denbrough (Lieberher) is 13 years old and is ready to start his summer vacation, but unlike most kids his age, he is on a personal quest to find out what has been happening to his town’s children. Several of them have gone missing, and he can’t understand why no one else seems to care. Kids vanish and the town just shrugs it off. His best friend Richie Tozier (Wolfhard) is the class clown, and he reluctantly agrees to help Bill on his little summer adventure. Their other friends, Eddie Kaspbrak (Grazer) who is the world’s biggest hypochondriac, and Stanley Uris (Oleff) who is becoming a man in the Jewish faith this summer, also tag along. As the story develops, they pick up more people in their Losers’ Club.
Beverly Marsh (Lillis) is a girl who is blossoming into a young woman, and she’s not happy about the attention she’s started getting from older men or the other girls. Through no fault of her own, people have latched onto a rumor about her that is never fully revealed in the film, but it’s obvious that she is dealing with something very personal. It isn’t long before she joins Bill on his search for answers about the missing kids.
There is also a new kid in town, Ben Hanscom (Taylor) and a home-schooled kid Mike Hanson (Jacobs) that finally makes up the Losers’ Club. Ben is the chubby nerd who eventually figures out that his new township of Derry, Maine has some seriously twisted mysteries. He’s been to towns all across America, and Derry is the only one with so much dark history. And Mike, well, his family puts pressure on him to become a man and choose his path, but he isn’t really sure if he wants the job.
As they get closer to unmasking the evil that has been terrorizing Derry, they have to find courage that most grown men do not even possess, and they are being hunted by something that relishes their terror, quite literally!
While this new IT isn’t exactly as King’s novelization portrays the characters, or even the horrors that “It” uses against the Losers’ Club, this film is still remarkable. It is a fascinating coming of age story, similar to The Goonies, in fact, and now set in the 1908s, in earnest! See, you originally had kids in the 1950s in the story, and it just makes more sense to have these kids come up in the pop-culture generation. And speaking of pop-culture, see if you can find all the different references. I know I want to watch IT again, because I am sure I missed some stuff. Plus, I loved this film!
And if you are a die-hard fan of the novel, there will be some aspects that will irk you about the choices that were made, specifically a lot of the sub-text is missing in the film. Like taunts that “It” uses against characters are never established in the film, and there are little things that we are just supposed to “know” as we watch IT. I equate it to my experience right now reading Harry Potter, finally. The films are fine, but they lack many of the nuances that are explained in the book, and IT is the same. I was hopeful, that given this is only one side of the story, where the Losers’ Club are kids, that the writers would have more time to develop those elements. Like, the weapons that the club eventually uses to battle “It”, for example. Without giving much away, that was handled much better in the book and the miniseries.
But, none of this matters, right? I mean all anyone wants to know is, was IT scary? Well, there were at least two scenes that stuck with me, and are still with me, from my first screening. If you are curious, it’s the meat shop and the garage scenes that are etched in my mind’s eye. I heard that even King himself was scared by this film. Still, what he, or I, find scary doesn’t matter. It is what you find scary that will determine if this IT lives up to the original, or the book.
Oh, and the other thing people want to know is does Skarsgård make a believable Pennywise? Yes, when I discovered who he was in Atomic Blonde, I was floored by the transformation. Rumor has it he even did a certain eye-ball stunt without any effects! He’s Pennywise . . . too, not Pennywise II. I guess he and Curry can co-exist. I’ll let you decide which is better. They both bring something terrifying to the role.
Spoiler alert: If you aren’t familiar with the story of IT, there is an ancient evil entity that has been eating children in one Maine town for centuries. Before he devours his prey, he likes to season their flesh through their fear. He knows your deepest fears, when you are alone, and you are just on the other side of the doorjamb and think to yourself, “I better move quickly, or that intangible It will get me,” well, Stephen King has given that “It” a form.
As the years have passed, “It” has taken a liking to one visage that he comes back to often, a famous dancing clown, Pennywise that he feels presents a benign, welcoming appearance. Clearly he didn’t get the memo that many people are now afraid of clowns! But if you aren’t afraid of clowns, don’t worry, he knows whatever it is that you fear. And he’s always hungry. And he’s waiting for you to find him.