[REVIEW] ‘It’ Joins the Ranks of Stephen King Greats

Jason McDonald

As the release date for “It” came closer I started to become keenly aware of how much I was anticipating its release.  It was a little concerning because I started to dread the possibility that I was setting my expectations a bit too high.  Thankfully, “It” was the rare film that not only met those expectations, but surpassed them.

In “It” a group of kids, known as the Losers Club, band together to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of kids in Derry, Maine. The investigation leads them to the sinister history of the town and the presence of a malevolent shape shifting clown named Pennywise.

“It” faced an incredible challenge.  A lot of people really love that 1990 mini-series starring Tim Curry.  And rightfully so, it left a huge impression on a lot of younger people who happened to catch it at the time.  It’s debatable whether or not the film has held up after all these years, but there’s no denying it’s cultural impact.  It seemed impossible for a new “It” to match the legacy of the of original, but thankfully the film nails a few key aspects.

The first of which is the the casting of the film.  This is one of those rare occasions where every single kid actor in the film is perfectly cast.  The young boy playing Georgie is unbelievably cute and gives a heart shattering performance where he nails a few key emotional scenes.  Sophia Lillis (Beverly) delivers probably the most intense performance in the film as she creates a very vulnerable and hurt character that lends a lot of strength to the rest of the Losers.  Then there’s Finn Wolfhard (Richie) who plays a drastically different character than his “Stranger Things” counterpart.  He’s vulgar, cusses like a sailor, and is kind of badass.  He’s the comedic relief of the film and he does an excellent job of juggling the horror and humor his character needs to convey.

But, honestly, it’s probably not too hard to beat the kids from the original 1990 series.  The real challenge is how do you replace Tim Curry as Pennywise?  Thankfully Bill Skarsgard proves he’s up to the challenge and delivers a mesmerizing display of clown intensity that I haven’t seen since Heath Ledger’s Joker.  Personally I never found Pennywise in either film to be “scary,”  but here he’s a wild unpredictable element that leaves you feeling uneasy every time he’s on screen.  Bill does an amazing job of going from playfully unhinged to a dead eye psychopath in the blink of an eye.  He even manages to inject a bit of whimsy into the role when we see him playfully toying with a child like a cat plays with his food.  The new “It” will never overtake the cultural status of the original, but he damn well lives up to the legacy.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is that, at times, it feels less like horror and more like a dark fantasy film from the ’80s.  The heavy focus on the kids leads to a lot of charming scenes with them bonding and learning about life, but the thing is underlined by a dark tone where you know something is desperately wrong with the world they’re living in.  It’s refreshing to see a film where kids are taking on a world that isn’t perfect and designed to be pleasant for children.  In true Stephen King fashion we see that Pennywise is a monster, but the some of the greatest horrors are the humans we have to deal with.  And through the eyes of a child that is especially upsetting. We don’t see a lot of films like this anymore.

“It” is a truly special film that isn’t a just a good horror film. It’s just a damn good movie. Period.  This is the kind of film that even people who aren’t fans of horror should see because of it’s far reaching themes and its nostalgic feel.  If you even have the slightest interest in seeing this film, I highly recommend it. It will not disappoint.

5 / 5 stars     


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