These days even the word “remake” is enough to make one’s eyes roll, especially when it comes to horror. But the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel IT comes 27 long years after the original TV miniseries that starred Tim Curry as the iconic Pennywise (and to those familiar with the clown’s lore, the fact that it’s been 27 years might just be enough to put the willies up you). And Andy Muschietti’s IT isn’t necessarily just a remake of the terrifying terrestrial telling, either – it’s the first cinematic representation of King’s monster novel.
In the backwater town of Derry, late eighties, Bill’s younger brother Georgie becomes the latest victim in a series of missing children when his paper boat drifts into a storm drain, leading him into the brutal clutches of the playfully-wicked “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”. A year on and children continue to disappear, while a grief-stricken Bill and the rest of the self-labelled “Losers Club” are being terrorised by the ancient evil that’s literally lurking beneath Derry. Determined to find Georgie alive and to end the demonic clown’s reign of terror, Bill leads his reluctant friends into Derry’s dark history, and on a nightmarish journey deep into the heart of where “IT” lives.
Unlike most of the tepid horrors that continue to populate the silver screen, IT is anything but monotone in its delivery as it effortlessly juggles several themes such as adolescent drama and comedy, all the while without taking itself too seriously. There are some nightmarishly-whacky and inventive scare sequences here too, from a monstrously-sized, projector-born Pennywise to a menacing, mind-bogglingly-contorting one that rolls out from inside a broom cupboard. And then of course there’s the iconic opening scene, which bites much harder than you might expect. That all said, with filthy sewer settings, bogey contests and abhorrent lepers, it’s fair to say that IT is far yuckier than it is scary.
Like Netflix mega-hit Stranger Things – an inevitable comparison and one not helped by Finn Wolfhard – the movie doesn’t just ingeniously capture what it’s like to be a kid in the days before the circus that is modern technology came knocking, it’s also not without some much-needed humanity within the narrative. Unlike the show, though, these sunset-cycling geeks are about to hit puberty a lot quicker than the Hawkins gang. If you’ve noticed the lack of the Losers Club’s adult counterparts in the trailers then you’ll know that the final chapter is yet to come. There’s simply no way King’s novel would ever translate into a single movie without the end result popping like a balloon. Even the miniseries – originally intended as eight hours across four parts – was sliced down the middle. The point is, if any horror warrants a sequel, it’s always been this one.
There are times, though, when IT feels as wacky as a bad Elm Street sequel (a strange critique given a direct cameo to one of said-movies) with Pennywise popping up on TV channels, spewing out silly one-liners, growing a gigantic mouth or dancing around like, well, a clown (okay, we forgive you). But luckily it never reaches such a point of corniness that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and is ultimately far more reminiscent of 2015’s Krampus through its innovative gallery of additional monsters.
A wonderful and refreshing balance of horror and storytelling with plenty of jokes to boot as well as some memorable performances – notably from a hilarious Finn Wolfhard and a deeply unsettling Bill Skarsgard – IT is one of the strongest horrors to have emerged from the dark depths in years, and is drenched in such an assortment of colours that it will be set apart from anything designed to do nothing more than sell lots of pop-pop-popcorn.
Verdict? It would be wise to part with your pennies here. Just don’t watch it alone. But you should be fine, because I bet you have a lot of friends..?
For more movie reviews as well as the latest scoop on the Fantastic Beasts sequel currently filming in Lacock, check out my blog Curious Rookie.