It might have seemed unnecessary to remake the Stephen King classic, IT. The 90’s adaptation is pretty widely regarded as a horror classic, and it featured the incomparable blood-red grin of Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown. However, overall it had few really scary moment for anyone who wasn’t already traumatised by the mere sight of clowns. The 2017 version is not so much a remake as a new adaptation, and as such is a much more well-rounded take, with a Pennywise that will chill a whole new generation to the bone.
This is an adaptation that really is worthy of all the nightmares people have been expecting, having glimpsed the poster or watched the trailer through their fingers. It is director Andy Muschietti (Mama) that manufactured these delicious moments of hand-over-the-eyes terror, the sort of scary imagery that stays with you for days, maybe forever.
IT is set in the 1980’s, and is the first of two films. The sequel is likely to be released in 2019, and will pick up the story in the present day, when the children are adults. Bringing the setting forward to the late 80’s (rather than the 1950’s as it was in the novel) allowed the film to cash in on the current nostalgia for teen ensemble casts, such as Stranger Things has done. Friends and outcasts armed with pushbikes and no sense of personal danger. The performances of the young cast are astonishingly heartfelt and genuine. Jaeden Lieberher is great as the determined, stuttering Bill. Finn Wolfh (Stranger Things) brought a little welcome humour as the trash-talking Richie. In order to get us to the point where we are truly afraid, the movie first makes us love these characters and see ourselves in each of them.
Having played the gorgeous, yet bloodthirsty lead on Hemlock Grove, the casting of Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise came out of left field. How and why he came to fill the role is a moot point really, as he performed the sinister role expertly, and was perhaps even more memorable than Curry in the original. It is hard to get that smile, and that voice out of your mind past the closing credits!
If you do not suffer from a deathly fear of clowns, you can expect to laugh out loud, as IT really a very funny movie. Yet nothing is lost in regards to the anxiety and suspense of Kings story. This is a film about the power of fear itself, and Muschietti delivered. So, Put aside your assumptions about what this film will be, and let yourself enjoy it for what it is: a wonderfully executed thriller.
On a side note, Muschietti is also currently onboard to direct the TV adaptation of King’s son, Joe Hill’s horror comic Locke and Key. With IT as the benchmark, it will be exciting to see what else he can deliver!
IT is showing in cinemas across Australia now.