Pennywise the dancing clown is back on our screens after a, not so coincidental, 27 years from the 1990 version. 27 years being the time between IT attacks in this new version.
I had mixed feelings when I heard they were going for a new version as I remember Pennywise from my childhood, it was something the whole school was talking about, it was my introduction to horror and the marvellous Tim Curry who played Pennywise.
For the uninitiated, IT is based on a Stephen King novel of the same name. It is the story of a small town in the USA, Derry, where seven children, who call themselves the losers club, end up tackling an evil, shape-shifting clone known as IT, or Pennywise.
Pennywise has been taking both adults and children from the town of Derry for centuries, so long in fact, that the town seems to almost accept it.
When Bill’s, Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, St. Vincent), little brother is taken by Pennywise, he is convinced he’s still alive and drags his friends along for the adventure to find him.
We have Ben, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man, 42), as the new kid, Beverly, Sophia Lillis (37, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as the only girl of the group, Richie, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things (TV)), as the comedian, Mike, Chosen Jacobs (Hawaii Five-O (TV)), as the kid whose lost his parents, Eddie, Jack Dylan Grazer (Tales Of Halloween, Scales: Mermaids Are Real), as the kid with the overprotective mom and Stanley, Wyatt Oleff (Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Someone Marry Barry), as the one we know least about.
There are some fantastic performances throughout IT, most notably Skarsgard as Pennywise. The makeup helps but Skarsgard is in tune with this psychotic, deranged clown from the voice to the little twitches and movements that are perfect.
Lillis also gives a fine performance, I think we’ll see more of her in the future, as does Lieberher in the lead role and Wolfhard in the comedic role who seems like he’s having an absolute blast.
Director Andy Muschietti (Mama) handles things very well, taking some cues from the 1990 version but definitely putting his own stamp on things. The only time you really notice things not going so well are in the final fight scene where it all gets a bit close-up, shaky cam.
Writers Chase Palmer (Shock And Awe (Short), Neo-Noir (Short)), Cary Fukunaga (Beasts Of No Nation, Sin Nombre) and Gary Dauberman (Annabelle, Within) adapt the source material well.
What the writers have also done is borrow heavily from other Stephen King adaptations, most notably Stand By Me. Some people will be happy with this (me, it’s one of my favourite films), whilst others may bemoan that it takes away some of the horror.
For instance; Stand By Me also had a kid who has asthma and was also told that the medication he was taking for it was just a placebo (or gazebo as Eddie says).
The eras are around the same and both feature a group of boys going on an adventure, both deal with death and loss and both have a mulleted bully-kid chasing them.
This is unsurprising given both were written by King but the similarities seem more pronounced in this version of IT, particularly as they have chosen to split the film into two chapters. Providing IT does well at the box office, chapter two will see the adults return.
As mentioned, I was wary of a remake of a childhood film, I was also unsure if I’d like it as I’m not a big fan of horror films. However, I just had to see it (IT) and I’m so glad I did. It’s a fantastic, nostalgic trip down memory lane.
It doesn’t go for horror for horrors sake, it’s funny, sweet, a tad too long at over two-hours, but brilliantly performed and I think there’s room for two Pennywise’s. Both Skarsgard and Curry are officially not invited to any children’s parties I attend!