I would consider myself part of the Stephen King generation, I was for sure on the younger part of the spectrum, but a fan nonetheless. I devoured Pet Sematary, Christine, and The Dead Zone, was bored to death by The Tommyknockers, but loved Different Seasons, whose stories would come to be the film versions of “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand by Me”. In middle school I received a copy of “IT” for Christmas. I plowed through it in a matter of weeks, and it terrified me, I guessed the key reason was the central characters were kids close to my age range.
The story of a group of self-described losers who had to go up against bulllies, their families, their past, and worst of all an evil force in the shape of a clown named Pennywise who preys on fear was right up my alley.
Most people my age have a clear loved-to-be-scared relationship with the TV miniseries of “IT” with the great Tim Curry as the creepy clown. It kept the tone of the book, and held on to several of the important character beats and enough well placed scares to remain memorable.
So 31 years after the book, and 27 years after the miniseries “IT” has made it to the big screen, now instead of being set in the 50’s thee kids are deep in the “Stranger Things” 80’s and again face their fears as well as child killing clown.
I think this will appeal to both fans of the 1990 miniseries and those that have fond memories of the late 80’s. Fans of the book will still be disappointed by the liberties taken with the source material. As a film “IT” is not on par with the current slate of horror like “The Conjuring”, “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious”. It actually is more reliant on jump-scares and messed up imagery than trying to invoke a sense of dread, or slowly pushing to creep you out of your seat. During this summer of ’89, most of the scary set pieces are set in the daytime, just in dark places with shafts of light coming through the edges. It is a bold choice by director Andy Muchietti. Trying to keep things familiar at the same time going for something we don’t see often.
The kids range from extremely inexperienced to potential star material. We get a “Stranger Things” star in Finn Wolfhard and a new comer Sophia Lillis as the girl of the group Beverly. She is given the most meat of a role with her family life, and school reputation haunting her well before the clown Pennywise played expertly by Bill Skarsgård makes his appearance.
Again there are many ways this version is different from the book and the miniseries, the time devoted to the kids is much more limited as more time is spent on Jaeden Lieberher as young Bill Denbrough, Beverly and surprisingly, Pennywise. His role in the film is really beefed up with mixed results, there are times where he looks amazing, and others where he feels too CG. I did like how they changed the way Pennywise appeared to the kids here as personifications of their fears: germs, puberty, history, and of course, clowns.
All in all, this big screen adaptation of “IT’ is well done, but far from better than the original miniseries, which was able to make you care for the kids as well as their adult counterparts in 3 hours, where this one gave a fast forward/short-handed version of just the kids part of the story in 2 hours.
I do foresee all the others studios looking at their King properties after this one hits to see what they can remake. I say go for his short works, those almost always manage to scare the hell out of me.