Stephen King’s “It” holds a very polarizing place in my heart. The first ever blog post that I wrote on Nightmarish Conjurings was of my disappointment of the book, most notably the last two hundred pages or so. However, that hasn’t stopped my excitement for the film adaptation of IT. The movie had been in development for the past 7 years, with high profile changes in both the director and lead star of Pennywise. Now, with only a few days separating the arrival of the film nationwide, the question remains, does director Andy Muschietti’s IT live up to all the hype?
Many of you are familiar with the story of IT, but for those who aren’t, I feel it’s important to give a brief summary of what to expect. In this film, the focus of the story surrounds a group of friends, otherwise known as the Loser’s Club, who band together over being bullied as well as seeing the appearance of a clown, who may be the reason children keep disappearing in the town of Derry, Maine. The film stars Bill Skarsgard as the title role of Pennywise, along with Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff and Nicholas Hamilton.
As someone who has read the book and seen the mini-series, I can say with full honesty and sincerity that Andy Muschietti’s IT is one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel, ever. Not only is the acting top notch but the storytelling is beautifully crafted with genuine moments of terror and awe. Please note that this film wasn’t created for the sake of scares and gore, this was a film that was expertly constructed to both get under the viewer’s skin while also playing with our heartstrings. If you are expecting to be terrified from the first frame to the end credits, you may be disappointed as this isn’t what IT is about. Instead, this is a film that focuses on the relationship between a group of friends, a coming-of-age film if you will, as they battle a horrific supernatural force within their lives.
In terms of acting, we should just give all the awards to Bill Skarsgard, as he is truly the new face of terror as Pennywise. I had always been on board with the choice to have him personify such an iconic horror figure, but there was always that nagging feeling of doubt that kept creeping in. Look, Skarsgard is never going to be Tim Curry, and if you go into this film hoping for that, you’ll be incredibly let down. Skarsgard brought his own unique personality to the role which helped in separating him from the iconic portrayal done by Curry. Skarsgard is downright terrifying and has a particular knack for making ones skin crawl. He also does a tremendous job of balancing between being this horrific character while also having this mesmerizing charm that is hard to look away from.
As for the Loser’s Club, what can I say, they are perfect. You’ll be hard pressed to not identify with at least one of them while also watching your heart melt as they form a strong bond over the carnage that is unfolding. At the end of the day, this film, and the book, are about the relationships between the kids – the ups and downs they face as well as the real and supernatural struggles that present themselves. Though the supernatural element is just as important, it’s not the focal of what this film is about. The stars of the Loser’s Club, Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough), Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak), Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris), and Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh), have genuine chemistry that translates impeccably and seamlessly on screen.
I know everyone wants to know about the scares and gore. As I mentioned earlier in this review, the scares aren’t the defining purpose of this film – though there are a few good ones scattered throughout. As for the gore, I was pleasantly surprised with what they showed. If you remember, the IT mini-series, there was very little violence and/or blood/gore, but this time around, that R rating is there for a reason. The film also deals with some heavy topics that are prevalent in the book that may be a trigger for some, however, I will say that the infamous sex scene is not in the film. I was appreciative that the gore wasn’t gratuitous or used for the sake of using it, instead it fit perfectly into the narration of what was happening.
Lastly, let’s talk about Neibolt House. The film heavily focuses on the experience that the Loser’s Club faces at the Neibolt House which is both visually appealing as well as a mechanism that helps in pushing the film along. I’ve been lucky enough to experience The Neibolt House in person at the pop-up haunt in LA and not only was it mind-blowing but it gave me a chance to be fully immersed into that world. I always felt like not having the Neibolt House in the mini-series was a lost opportunity so I loved seeing it come alive on the big screen as well as in person. Also, the creature designs, specifically that of the Leper, were spot on and added to the overall feeling of discomfort and fear that the film portrayed.
Overall, Andy Muschietti’s IT is one of the best films that I have seen this year and easily one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise will leave you gasping for air as he morphs into his soon to be iconic role and the Loser’s Club will have you cheering for them from start to finish. The story comes full circle and really gives audiences insight into the lives of these kids before they take that turn into adulthood (which we will see in the second film). Add in the special effects and creature designs, outside of Pennywise, and IT is a homerun film that surpasses that of the horror genre. If you are looking for a film that combines true moments of terror with a coming-of-age story, then you MUST go see IT when it’s released nationwide on September 8th. That way, you’ll float too.