Reviews: Horror done right – Stephen King’s It
Directed by Andy Muschietti,
Starring Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis
The Stephen King book which terrified fifteen-year old me is moved to 1989, with a group of bullied kids being terrorised both in school and by the paranormal clown Pennywise. Unlike the previous small screen version of It, the 2017 cinematic treat that you are in for just deals with the late 1980s.
Stephen King adaptations are a coin toss these days – in truth they always were, some classics, some dire – and too many of his great works are treated like cash cows, and are weak sauce when it comes to the production. This year another adaptation was really poor, but for those of us unfamiliar with that series of books, it was a passable entertainment flick. Though talking to fans of that series would give you a completely different view of what they were expecting from that. When I heard that Warner Brothers were remaking It I held my breath for two reasons: the first being hopeful that they would do the book justice, and the second was that I would have to face a fear of this one particular clown.
The 90s version of It is something that I bring out from time to time, when I’ve over three hours to spare, and just have a great time. I love that miniseries, and love that I can watch it now in one complete sitting. Tim Curry embodied Pennywise. That was right up until I saw Bill Skarsgard, and from the very first few moments that this new Pennywise comes on screen, you learn that this is completely a different animal from anything before. Skarsgard makes the role his own straight from the start; a lesser performer would try to copy Curry, but Bill has that belief in his own talent to create something different and yet very familiar. There is a more vicious tone to this new film that may shock people straight out of the gate, and I welcome this. I want to be uncomfortable while watching horror movies, and that is rare these days.
The kids that have to carry this film are all 100% perfect for their roles, and as a fan of the book, you can’t help but cast their older selves. Jaeden Lieberher is Bill and we’ve met him earlier this year in The Book of Henry, which I for one thought was underrated, and his stuttering is perfectly fitting for the character. Jaeden has that old soul feel to his performance and you can’t help but feel for him. The rest of the cast including a Stranger Things alum, all manage to convince you that you are back in the 80s. I will say that Stranger Things played heavy on my mind, but whenever I’m watching any of the previous King adaptations I am always reminded, as we should be, of Stranger Things. The New Kids on the Block joke is something that made my day.
I jumped a lot during this film, which is what you want in a horror flick, and I also fell hard into the world of Derry. The score is perfect and made you feel that the film makers cared about the whole package and not just the jump scares. Also the creation of the town and the background world does transport you back to the awesomeness that was the 80s. A friend who was at the screening, and who does not like the horror genre (there are some strange folks out there who don’t), came out saying that horrors with that production value would make him enjoy the films more. He also jumped a lot; yes, this one does get under your skin and give you some genuine scares.
What I love about this version of It, apart from it concentrating on the younger versions of these characters, is that it felt as though this was the first time I was watching this story. I wasn’t waiting on parts that I knew, I was a King Fan, and I was getting more for my King money than most any other film of his work. But It is more, It is not just the horror film of the year, It is the best horror film I’ve seen in years. This is how it should be done, and this is how Mr. King should insist that they are done, I think you’ve earned that right, and thanks to Warner Brothers and director Andy Muschietti you’ve got it here.