Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher,
Running time: 134 minutes
Release date: September 8th
Strange thing, nostalgia. When and how you engage with a piece of art can be just as important as the quality of the content itself. It’s why we are ‘treated’ to endless outdoor screenings of Back To The Future. It’s why the lifeless Jurassic World made an obscene amount of money. It’s why meeting a killer clown in your formative years puts an especially macabre spin on party entertainment forevermore.
Still, don’t get It twisted. The two-part television adaptation of Stephen King’s epic coming-of-age nightmare looks especially ramshackle some 27 years on, and its enduring legacy is down to two crucial details: the context of seeing it as a youth, and a delightfully wicked turn from the great Tim Curry as titular antagonist Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
And yet even then, a good deal of Curry’s performance lacks razor-sharp teeth when viewed under a modern microscope. It’s an iconic mixture of high camp in the vein of his exploits in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and rare moments of genuine horror. He’s terrific, no doubt, but outside of a smattering of well-executed moments, is his monster truly all that terrifying?
All of which is to say that a big-screen revival of the property is welcome. Having been stuck in development hell for years, the clown is finally unleashed once more in the form of Bill Skarsgård who, to quote a classic episode of The Simpsons, has some pretty big shoes to fill. His take on Pennywise is that It is a deeply broken, predatory thing, and he inhabits the part with the requisite relish and menace to make the role his very own.
What’s more, he’s up against an extremely strong cast of characters, as a collective of adolescents who feel like real friends and authentic nervous, try-hard kids expertly brings the famous Losers’ Club to life. They’re the beating heart of a patient film that sets them on a grim adventure following a violent disappearance related to Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), the sensitive, stuttering leader of this band of misfits.
Somewhat predictably, Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame dominates the majority of the group’s scenes, but his wannabe comedian Richie Tozier is meant to be a loudmouth, so it’s fine. In discovering themselves as individuals, the Losers must face off with sadistic bullies, apathetic/abusive adults, and the inevitable pangs of puberty. Oh – and a murderous demon that can manifest as their own unique worst fears.
Speaking of, though It captures a rich atmosphere and plays well with a creeping sense of dread. While this is a horror movie in 2017, and thus jump scares are in plentiful supply, they’re good scares, and that’s important. With that said, Andy Muschietti’s effort is never quite as bone-chilling as you wish it to be, and there’s a nagging sense that original director Cary Fukunaga might have fleshed out the town of Derry as more of a character. Muschietti also stumbles a couple of times in a bid to provide proceedings with some levity, which is admirable in its own cute way.
Nonetheless, these are minor nitpicks in what is ultimately a triumphant effort. A contemporary horror film where you actually care about the characters? How novel…