Oh, the puns this title provide are just too invITing to resist.
IT (2017) is a horror adaption of Stephen King’s novel of the same name directed by Andy Muschietti. It stars Jaden Lieberher as Bill, a young boy living in the small town of Derry when his brother mysteriously disappears. With the help of his group of friends, dubbed the ‘Losers Club’, they begin to hunt down the supernatural menace that is plaguing the town in the form of a sinister clown known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).
While best known for the 1990 miniseries of the same name, the novel and story of IT has become swept up in wider culture so much that it was only a matter of time before we would have another adaption on our hands. Pennywise in particular has become an icon of horror, making the fact that this is one of the best Stephen King adaptations in a long time (as well as just a really solid horror movie) a fantastic surprise.
IT lends a lot to both last year’s phenomenon Stranger Things as well as classic Spielberg pictures in its representation of 1980s Derry. It feels akin to everything from E.T. to The Goonies and the setting itself is captured in a way that makes the film feel timeless in the same way those movies are. The story structure suffers a little bit due to balancing so many main characters, but overall the movie moves very smoothly and naturally, and feels considerably shorter than its 135 minute runtime.
However, horror fans are here for only one thing and in that respect the movie delivers in droves. While it does occasionally fall back on the frustrating crutch of cheap jump scares, for the most part the imagery, atmosphere and impressive visuals are enough to make for an extremely scary and absorbing experience. Bill Skarsgård’s rendition of Pennywise is utterly spectacular in how it plants itself perfectly in the depths of the uncanny valley – not quite human, but close enough to be horribly unsettling. Coupled with some great effects work and a stellar design and the film should be applauded in bringing a horror icon back to life that both distinguishes itself from Tim Curry’s previous performance while forging new (and terrifying) ground.
The rest of the young cast is also exceptional. Each member of the Losers Club is distinct and there’s not a single poor performance amongst them. While a couple are short-shrifted compared to their peers, overall its a very solid group of clearly talented actors. Special mention also goes to Finn Wolfhard (from Stranger Things fame funnily enough) who acts as the motor-mouth comic relief of the group and does a wildly impressive job at imitating ‘that one kid’ everyone seems to know exactly like him. However, the cast does suffer a little bit from the usual trope of horror movie protagonists making incredibly stupid decisions. It can be forgiven somewhat due to the characters being reckless, impulsive kids on the cusp of teenage-hood, but it does get frustrating at times.
It may be a lesser point, but Muschietti’s direction here is to be applauded. The film is full of exceptional touches of clever direction that really elevate the movie’s quality that much more. He doesn’t always succeed though – there’s minor tonal disparity at times and a few scenes feel a little unnecessary – but overall there’s a real strong vision behind the movie that more than likely has led to the impressive final product.
And that’s what the movie is – impressive. I never expected a Stephen King adaption about a clown to be one the biggest surprises of the year, and while I can poke a few holes its simply an incredibly well-made horror movie. Truly exquisITe.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
True Believers (Horror): Must-see