Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Chung-hoon Chung
WRITERS: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
MUSIC: Benjamin Wallfisch
Despite the fact that it is a 1990 mini-series, the original adaptation of Stephen King’s “It” is still highly regarded by fans. When they announced they were making a new version for the big screen, even I wondered if they would do a good job. Aside from just the mini-series, I also wondered if it would just be a good adaptation of the book itself.
The trailer for the new movie definitely got people excited and definitely a little bit afraid for the new movie. Thankfully, that was a good omen for what turns out to be a great modern day horror film with a chilling atmosphere. Also, the cast turns out to be rather good all around.
The movie is set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, and it follows the Losers’ Club. The club is a group of kids that consists of Bill Debrough (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Bev Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), and Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer). Soon, they are all terrorized by a monstrous foe that mostly shows up in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård).
None of the adults in town seem to understand why the children of the town have gone missing. Bill’s brother George (Jackson Robert Scott) is one of Pennywise’s most recent victims. Soon enough, Bill and the gang realize that they must face their fears and go after Pennywise themselves.
And fear is definitely the name of the game. Every member of the Losers’ Club has something that they fear most. Bill fears he’ll never find George, Bev fears her father, Eddie is a hypochondriac, Mike fears fires due to an earlier trauma, Stan fears a rather creepy looking painting, Ben is afraid of bullies, and Richie… Well, Richie is afraid of clowns.
One of my biggest fears is that all of these child actors wouldn’t be able to pull off their roles or that one would be a weak link in the chain. Thankfully, this group of kids can stand with the best of them, including the kid ensembles found in the likes of “The Goonies” and “Stand By Me”. Even Richie, who I thought would be the most annoying because he’s supposed to be the comedic relief, turns out alright and he even has my favorite line in the movie.
On the other side of the fence are two primary villains. Nicholas Hamilton plays Henry Bowers, a psychotic bully that terrorizes all the members of the kids. Hamilton does a great job of showing just how demented Bowers can be, but he is also good at revealing the fear that drives his bullying.
Finally, we come to the true monster of the movie. Skarsgård has quite the shoes to fill after Tim Curry’s wonderful performance in the original mini-series. Thankfully, he fills those big clown shoes perfectly and is truly a terrorizing force to be reckoned with. Also, the writers were smart in not overusing Pennywise and the “less is more” approach makes him even more menacing and helps the overall chilling tone of the film as the audience always feels that the kids are being watched.
Now, I must admit before leaving that if you’ve read the book or seen the original mini-series, then you will know what to expect for the most part. But I will also say that I’ve seen the original mini-series myself and this movie is a worthy update of the story for modern audiences. It also helps that the movie can do certain things that the mini-series couldn’t with far better special-effects and not as much censoring.
Earlier this year, Columbia Pictures absolutely butchered “The Dark Tower” and left us with an empty shell of a film. Warner Bros. has stepped in with “It” in order to make things right with a stellar Stephen King adaptation. They also leave the film wide open for the next chilling chapter and instead of feeling like you’re missing half of the film, you feel like you’ve watched a hell of a horror movie and you can’t wait to see what “Chapter Two” will bring to the table!