You’ve undoubtedly seen or heard of the 1990 ABC adaptation of Steven King’s novel, “IT.” Despite the miniseries’ undeniable cheesiness, Tim Curry singlehandedly drilled the terrifying Pennywise the Dancing Clown, or IT, into the horror hall of fame. Andy Muschietti’s 2017 “IT” delivers on that promise of horror, with a little extra thrown in too.
The faithful adaptation follows a group of preteens investigating the disappearance of their town’s children while being terrorized by a diabolical clown. Where the 1990 adaptation stumbled when Curry was off screen, the horror element of Muschietti’s “IT” felt like an additional boon. To be honest, the trailers have spoiled about two-thirds of the film’s scary moments.
Thankfully, the trailers didn’t show the main meat of the film: the kids’ characters. Thriving on its story of friendship, thanks to the cast’s chemistry, the film is as much a coming-of-age tale as a horror movie.
“IT” was full of surprisingly fun, well-written moments. If you’re a “Stranger Things” fan, you owe it to yourself to see Finn Wolfhard’s delightful performance as Richie. He very well may have stolen the show from Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise. Despite other great performances, the cast does feel a bit overstuffed. From the seven-member gang, Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley could have been cut completely to no detriment — I remembered him solely as “the Jewish kid.”
The packed cast also causes the narrative to stutter in places. Though beautifully morbid and enjoyable, the first and second acts often felt like a collection of spooky vignettes instead of one cohesive story. Chosen Jacobs’ Mike also suffers from noticeably stilted screen time away from the rest of the cast.
It’s not until the middle of the second act, when the group is finally together, that the film really begins to flow well.
Directionally, Muschietti and Skarsgård have taken Pennywise into complete horror territory. If Curry’s clown was deeply unsettling in all its camp, Skarsgård’s is pure terror. Though sadly sparse, the sequences that include Pennywise and its transformations hit all the notes of terror, disgust and intrigue to be expected of the monstrous clown. A more horror-based direction, on top of the benefit of a big Hollywood budget, has helped Skarsgård stand apart from Curry’s iconic take on the role.
An odd, but properly King mix of horror and coming of age, “IT” successfully pulls off scares and genuine affection alike. Though I would have liked to see more of Skarsgård’s Pennywise, the excellent chemistry of the young cast more than makes up for the light horror to be found in the film.
Recommended on a big screen.
Hector Valverde is a culture reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @hpvalverde.