In the Summer of 1989 in the small town of Derry, Maine, children are disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Knowing the culprit to be an evil, shapeshifting clown, seven young misfits (known as the Losers’ Club) set out to defeat ‘It’.

Following the tragic disappearance of his five-year-old brother, Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is finding it hard to let go. Convinced his little brother may still be alive, Bill is determined to find him and heads to the barrens with his best friends; the self-titled Losers’ Club. Soon finding evidence suggesting this is not just an accident, the boys quickly begin seeing horrific visions of their deepest fears – the workings of a murderous, shapeshifting clown named Pennywise. Upon learning that the clown appears every 27 years to kill as many children as possible, and with the help of two new members to the group, the gang set out to destroy the clown once and for all.

Based on the iconic 1986 novel by Stephen King, Mama director, Andy Muschietti, breathes new life in to Pennywise the Dancing Clown in this wildly dark narrative. Whilst it could not be further from the 1990 TV adaptation starring Tim Curry, there are some clear nods to both the mini-series and the book. Naturally, the unforgettable opening scene with the paper boat is practically identical; there is a flickering likeness of Curry’s costume in one scene, and the characters are very much the same in terms of personality and development.

However, Muschietti’s version is not only far darker, but it focuses only on one period of time. Unlike the back-and-forth of linear time in the mini-series, it centres on the Summer of 1989 – thankfully ignoring the book’s disturbing sex scene and the characters’ return decades later. Naturally, this makes way for a sequel (or a Chapter II) but also means that the film works perfectly well as a single entity.

Of course, horror fans will have one question at the forefront of their minds; is it scary? Now whilst this will almost certainly depend on your scare threshold, It does follow the stand horror genre codes and conventions. This means it can be very predictable at times, rendering the majority of its jump scares, staccato soundtrack and whip pans as somewhat tame. Unless you genuinely hate clowns and blood, in which case – this will most likely terrify you. In part, the film does struggle to escape the unrealistic horror convention of easily-avoidable peril in which we’ve seen all too many times. For example, entering an obviously haunted house only to be surprised by the horrors that lie inside.

Arguably, the generic genre conventions do not take away from the narrative as a whole. For horror fans in particular, It makes for comfortable viewing – with the comedic scenes being genuinely very funny. The somewhat graphic scenes are actually very well executed – most notably, an explosion of blood acting as the world’s most unsubtle puberty metaphor. On occasion, however, there are scenes of dodgy CGI which can lessen the scare and heighten the cringe.

Most enjoyable about It is the dynamic of the Losers’ Club. Reminiscent of The Goonies (1985) and Stand By Me (1986), the group playfully make fun of one another; making jokes about each-others mothers and quirks. Particularly a highlight of the film is Ritchie (Finn Wolfhard) who is almost an exact, more foul-mouthed rein-visioning of Mouth (Corey Fieldman in Goonies). As such, Ritchie is a constant tool of comic relief throughout the film; saying what we’re all thinking – most of the time. With the arrival of Beverly (Sophia Lillis) in to the group, the dynamic shifts slightly as it becomes clear that each of the members are broken. Each have experienced a form of abuse or trauma in various form , though some are more severe than others. Ultimately, though it is never discussed, is what strengthens their bond. Equally, each of the young cast members deliver believably and hugely entertainment performances – thus adding to the film as a whole.

In terms of character development, Beverly’s is the most prominent and, arguably, moving. As a victim of bullying at school and an implied sexually abusive relationship with her own father, as an audience we feel the most empathy for her. Unlike the others’ in the group, she is less afraid of Pennywise as she faces real evil in her own home. As such, she is portrayed as being the strongest member of the club. This is an empowering adjustment to her character who, in the book and mini-series, was seemingly played down in comparison to the male parts and overly sexualised.

Much like Tim Curry’s tantalising performance in 1990, Bill Skarsgård proves to be one of the biggest successes of this adaptation. To make his performances all the more powerful, Pennywise is used sparingly so to keep the audiences eagerly waiting. Regardless of the CGI and special effects makeup, however, Skarsgård leaves a hell of an impression. His eyes are piercing yet dead; single strands of drool dangle from his chin and his execution of lines are simply chilling. This subtlety is massively successful, not purely because he is visually scary but because this makes him morbidly fascinating to watch.

Essentially a combination of Stranger Things, Goonies and Stand By Me, this film can pretty much be viewed as a coming-of-age with a few horror scenes thrown in for good measure. Despite some questionable CGI and generic genre codes, It is a refreshing update to the 90’s Pennywise we’ve known and loved. Having set itself up neatly for a follow up, you’ll most likely be left wanting a sequel. It ranks highly among the best Stephen King adaptations in the best possible way— even though that may seem like small praise.

Movie Review: It
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About The Author

Sophie Elizabeth

Sophie is a film blogger from South London with a degree in Film Theory and Major Production. Sophie currently works in digital marketing but in her spare time you’ll find her writing reviews or at the cinema. Sophie loves all things Star Wars and Hollywood but having specialized in the Horror genre, monsters are her first love. She’ll watch absolutely anything given the chance – you can find her also on her blog, http://www.popcornandglitter.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophieathawes