Director: Andy Muschietti.
Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott.
|Just out of shot: me shitting myself.|
But having not read the book or seen the 1990 miniseries means I'm free to review this shorn of any preconceptions or the weight of expectation and nostalgia. So if you want simply to know if It is a good film (and a scary one), then this is the review for you.
The short version is yes, It is a good film, and yes, It is scary - repeatedly and insidiously. For the long version, read on.
This adaptation of Stephen King's 1986 novel is set in 1988-'89, where a group of seven bullied and ostracised kids find themselves the target of a fear-feeding clown (Skarsgård) who appears responsible for the abnormally high rate of kids going missing in their hometown.
Among those missing kids is Georgie (Scott), whose brother Bill (Lieberher) is the leader of this group of self-proclaimed "losers". Bill is prepared to lead his friends into battle, or at least into the town's sewers, to try and find his brother and bring this clown's reign of terror to an end.
This is an excellent horror film because, yes, it's scary, but it's also a solid film outside of its frights. At its core it's closer to Stand By Me than anything else in the King canon - it's as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a scare-fest. It offers a kids-eye view of its setting and of fear itself, taking a simplistic look at what scares us and how the world works. There are no conversations between adults in It, and despite there being an epidemic of missing people, the film's POV is kept within the group of focus of our Goonie-like heroes, who largely view grown-ups as creatures not to be trusted (some are almost as scary as Pennywise). These are kids on the verge of adulthood and as a result the film doesn't need to bother with the world of adults too much.
While I've heard some grown-ups lament that the film isn't scary, I would suggest that it will have younger audiences (who can legally see the MA15+ rated movie of course) quietly shitting in their pants. It seems aimed at being a rite-of-passage horror movie, much like its predecessor was for so many people around my age, with a mettle-testing level of gore and adult themes. Personally I found it frequently scary, and while it's heavy on the jump scares and intense musical crescendos, that is certainly not the full extent of It's bag of tricks.
On top of all this, the film is beautifully shot. It's summertime setting and the fictional town of Derry are given the warm glow of nostalgic holidays of misspent youth, which is frighteningly at odds with some of its scares, most of which take place in the comparatively darker parts of Derry. That it can still offer some horror in broad daylight is a nice feat too.
As much as It is about coming of age, the power of fear, the importance of friendship, the loss of innocence, and the challenges of youth, it's also about a fucking clown named Pennywise who is the stuff bed-wetting nightmares are made of. In the hands of Bill Skarsgård and some brilliant costume and make-up design, he becomes the ruffle-wearing lovechild of Heath Ledger's Joker and Ridley Scott's Alien. He is a wonderfully scary creation.
If you weren't scared by It, maybe you're too mature or too battle-hardened by horror films or the travails of adulthood. But if you can tap into your youth (or are still young), then It is the horror movie for you.
*Apologies for the delay in posting this review and any mistakes in it, as it was painstakingly typed with one hand due to a wrist injury.