IT, the name alone holds weight. Stephen King’s infamous novel is one of horror’s great treasures and the classic 90’s TV mini-series it spawned has etched its place in horror history on the strength of Tim Curry’s iconic performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. So of course when news broke of a remake being in the works it was met with equal parts excitement and skepticism. This is understandable as the prospect of a big screen, big budget adaption had some horror fans salivating at the potential, while it had others feeling it isn’t IT without Tim Curry as Pennywise. Truth be told I can see both sides and have felt both ways throughout the production of the new film. However I am pleased to say, this new interpretation of IT delivers the goods. Mostly.
While the ABC mini-series hasn’t aged too well (particularly the second half where it focuses on the now grown up Loser’s Club) It still has it’s charm and it still has Tim Curry as Pennywise. But if we horror fans are being honest with ourselves, there is plenty of room for improvement. Whether it was touching on book material not found in the TV adaption, or simply being more faithful to the book while also being able to get nastier than was possible on TV, there was plenty to do this go round while still being respectful of what has come before. There is a great deal to digest from the 2 + hour run time, and I don’t want to get bogged down in trying to lay out the story, so if you do not know the story of IT by now and you are reading this, I apologize in advance if you feel lost.
Andy Muschietti’s 2017 adaption focuses soley on the childhood portion of the Loser’s Club story and their first battle with Pennywise. With a cast like this, that is a blessing as the kids in the film are absolutely fantastic. The chemistry for the most part is perfect between them. In addition Richie and Eddie respectively played by Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame and Jack Dylan Grazer steal the show. You really like these kids and it is just as enjoyable seeing them hang out and crack jokes as it is seeing them venture into the decrepit house at 29 Niebolt Street to face off with Pennywise. Speaking of Pennywise, I think the biggest area of debate will be how Bill Skarsgard’s rendition of the evil clown stacks up against Tim Curry’s. The two have differences that go beyond their looks, where Curry played Pennywise as more of an evil and sadistic man dressed up as a clown while cracking jokes, Skarsgard’s Pennywise is much more of a monster doing it’s best clown impression. Always seeming like it is trying to keep it’s guise intact and it could fall apart at any moment. I found that pretty creepy, that it’s a clown but there is something obviously not quite right about it. He is less of a character than Curry’s version though and more of a wild entity that serves to haunt the kids. It works to separate it but some I imagine won’t be with it, but I bought into it pretty early on.
While this take of an evil creature doing it’s best clown impression is a creepy concept, the one area I thought IT could have been a bit stronger in was in it’s creepiness. Early on I felt it had a good creep factor to it, however as the film progressed things while still being straight up seemed to miss the potential to do some extremely creepy stuff. For me there is a different between creepy and scary, and while my crowd seemed to be into the movie and found it pretty frightening with their screams and anxiety palpable in the air, I was left wanting to feel more chills than the film delivered even if the horror aspect was still strong. That being said, there ARE indeed some genuinely great horror moments and visuals found throughout the film that I won’t spoil here. The more I think of it the more I want to see it again so that I can process everything. With a run time of just over 2 hours, there is alot to take in and I think after having seen it, and knowing what I am getting into as far as what is new and what it not, I may be able to better appreciate it more as it’s own thing.
IT is one of the all time great horror stories and for years since 1990 we as horror fans have hung our hats on that TV adaption, with good reason of course, Curry’s Pennywise is a horror icon and now just as Pennywise resurfaces in the books, 27 years later we have a new version that will undoubtedly excite and frighten a whole new generation of fans. It will also give old school horror fanatics something to be proud of because IT is a strong horror film that pulls no punches at all and it gets violent and nasty and you really root for these kids because they are so likable. While some of the film will feel a bit too familiar thanks to similar story beats that you just can’t ignore, they are all handled really well here and more often than not, aside from a few moments, better than in the original. The material is treated with love and respect and as a fan of something that should be reason enough to celebrate this version of IT.