Review: New rendition of Stephen King’s 1986 novel, It, scrutinizes half of the 1000-something-page story into an effective two-hour thrilling ride with occasional scarefest. Despite the novel’s unfilmability (due to the richness of its content), this latest adaptation by Argentinian Andy Muschietti (Mama) could live up the expectation as a decent King’s adaptation and as a proper horror.
While It actually feels more like a coming-of-age adventure tale—with nods to classic ventures like The Goonies and other King’s adaptation, Stand by Me—the horror earns its gruesome portion; thanks to its legendary villain, Pennywise the Dancing Clown (oh, hi, coulrophobes!) who is said to always haunt the small town of Derry every 27 years. With intentionally shifted settings (adjusting 30 years from the novel’s 50s setting into 80s. Do the math and you’ll know why), sympathetic kid characters, rural summer vibes and a necessarily evil clown, you definitely won’t wish to float down there.
It takes its time to introduce the rosters of kid characters dubbed as The Losers Club while exposing each kid’s most profound fears and trauma. Sometimes, those fears are described with blatant events, but most of them are presented with subtexts and thematic snippets ranging from social issues, religious preference, health and sexuality. Knitted with celebration to distinction and sense of sympathy, It easily makes audiences rooting to The Losers, whose members are portrayed in such equally great performance that it’s difficult to pick any favorite one.
With his directorial creativity, Muschietti convincingly embodies Stephen King’s spirit in crafting bone-chilling story by fearing not to do anything terrible to anyone, not even a child, without ever holding back. That notion becomes alarming in It because the victims might be children whom audiences start to love. If thinking about that alone might induce uncomfortable feeling, watching that happens would definitely be a stressful experience.
One more successful indicator: Muschietti can bring the icon, Pennywise, alive in It’s own formula. This villain is a unique one because it’s intentionally written to be one-dimensional from human’s perspective. Pennywise doesn’t think that he’s evil, but he simply needs to feed on fears to survive, hence his killing spree. In portraying that, Bill Skarsgård has done his job satisfyingly as the supernatural killer clown. While appears over-the-top, Skarsgård’s Pennywise is effectively used in creating a pure evil with pure intention that becomes epicenter of the entire catastrophe in this film.
Yet, even with supernatural villain as insidious as Pennywise, it’s hard to call It a pure horror. The script written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Beast of No Nation, also the first appointed director for this film) and Gary Dauberman (Annabelle series) keeps the compact story as neat as possible, allowing only effective elements to stay put. It mostly works as exposition and Spielbergian adventure story. The horror elements come too straightforward and are only vicious because of the legendary villain. While the adventure tropes and horror elements blend optimally, the storyline and the pace loosen a bit during the third act before culminating in a rather delightful redemption.
In the end, the self-contained It feels episodic but never disjointed; it’s rich of subtexts but never get convoluted. It is simply an all-over-summer coming-of-age adventure with proper scarefest and nostalgic vibes.
Drama, Horror, Adventure Directed by: Andy Muschietti Written by: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman based on a novel by Stephen King Starred by: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard Runtime: 134 mins Rated R