IT [Review]: Gazing Into the Deadlights.
Many people (to include myself) have fond memories of the ‘90s TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It as well as Tim Curry’s portrayal of the sinister clown demon Pennywise. While there are some iconic scenes from that version, unfortunately it has not aged well. Director Andy Muschietti (Mama) helmed this modern version and it.. blows the original out of the water.
The town of Derry (in Maine, this is Stephen King) is being terrorized by a malevolent force that is preying on young children and subsequently murdering them. It takes the form of Pennywise the clown to lure them in to its.. maw, but can shapeshift into any form it likes. This time around Pennywise/It is being played by Bill Skarsgard, who does an absolutely fantastic and horrifying job. Pennywise’s design is downright unsettling as he looks like he’s wearing a man-suit that’s slightly too small for him. He is barely able to hold his form together and you can see the incomprehensible horror simmering underneath the flesh. At times he is literally salivating hungrily while talking to the kids. There is no mistaking it here—Pennywise is here to feast on the children of Derry.
On the children side of things we have the so-called Loser’s Club, comprised of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), and Mike (Chosen Jacobs). These are all kids who are ostracized and don’t fit in with regular society and school life. Each of them has their own fears and demons to overcome and Pennywise is happy to exploit them. The interplay between the child actors is incredibly naturalistic and raw—these kids sound like actual kids. They are raunchy, funny, vulnerable, and always relatable. It is just as much a coming-of-age film as it.. is a horror film and each side complements the other perfectly.
It is a violent and gory movie that doesn’t pull any punches with the carnage or the dialogue. It’s much scarier than the original and disturbing occasionally. It’s.. easy to care about these kids because they are so well written and multidimensional which is rare for a horror flick. Usually, they are filled with throwaway characters as “murder fodder” but It avoids this and it.. makes the stakes much higher. The issues some of the children face at home (especially Beverly) are almost as nasty as their encounters with the demon. This film is about loss of innocence and the growing pains that come with it… However, there is a running theme concerning love and friendship in the face of adversity as well. Many moments are quite touching and poignant.
Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography is absolutely gorgeous in the film, as the camera drifts dreamily around the scenery sometimes coming to a dead stop to reveal terrifying sights and secrets. This comes as no surprise as the man is responsible for some of the most beautiful films of all time: Oldboy (2003), The Handmaiden (2016) and Stoker (2013). With his deft artistry It is elevated to a higher visual level than most horror films. The music, composed by Benjamin Wallfisch (A Cure for Wellness, Hidden Figures), is sufficiently scary with some well-chosen ‘80s songs peppered throughout.
This is one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date. While a few aspects from the book change, It keeps the heart of the story and understands what makes it both simultaneously frighten the hell out of people and inspire them. It.. is truly a fantastic horror film. 4.5/5 Balloons.