Review: IT

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of clown, begins hunting children.

So here it is; the most anticipated horror film of the year has finally arrived in cinemas and it’s time to see if it lives up to all the hype. I am happy to say that it most certainly delivered on every level I hoped it would, and then some! It is safe to say this is one of the best, most articulated horrors to hit mainstream cinemas in a while. As soon as the opening sequence had finished and the red titular writing appeared, I knew we were in for a special 2 hours.

Director Andy Muschietti has taken a fair amount of the original 1990 TV movie but also brought a great deal of new material to the table and it pays off. Set in the small town of Derry, Maine it tells the story of a group of young friends who begin getting haunted by a frightening clown following a series of child disappearances. The only evidence left behind in each case is a trail of bloody remains. The seven kids are all linked by their individual encounters with the clown – otherwise known as ‘IT’ – as it takes the forms of their own personal fears. They have no choice but to team up and try to bring the evil clown to his demise before it’s too late.

The film excels in just about every way you could want it to. From the very first shot you can see everything looks so pristine, it’s beautifully filmed and the cinematography is stunning. The slick eighties soundtrack fits in perfectly with the coming of age story at the heart of the film and it’s reminiscent of all the best eighties teen films; Stand by Me and The Breakfast Club are just two that come to mind. The tension and suspense build gradually and when the jump scares do come (and they come aplenty) they are extremely effective. I don’t normally get scared but this one got me a few times!

Then there’s the brilliant cast. All of the young actors are simply superb. Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) is withdrawn but compelling as Bill, essentially the leader of the group. Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) also stands out as charismatic, nerdy Richie who is probably the most enthusiastic of the bunch. Jack Dylan Grazer gives a notably memorable performance as Eddie; the neurotic, hypochondriac that provides many of the laughs of the film. Sophia Lillis stands out as the only female in the clique; she’s the innocent beauty they all fixate on and look too as a figure of strength (her domestic life isn’t such a happy one). Whether intentional or not Lillis looks the spitting image of a young Molly Ringwald which is rather fitting given the eighties setting and the similarities this film has with the likes of many John Hughes films.

Then of course there’s Pennywise himself; chilling and unnerving in all his glory. Bill Skarsgard owns the role and puts his horrifying, unique spin on Stephen King’s iconic character. He is absolutely petrifying to put it mildly. Having not really been given the chance to sink his teeth into a leading role as of yet, this film is surely set to secure his

future offers and project him into stardom. His nerve-shredding performance is one you won’t forget easily and he is a tremendous talent to certainly keep an eye on.

Andy Muschietti has crafted a striking adaptation of a beloved classic from the master of suspense himself. It shocks and startles but it also sends shivers as it is not only a terrific horror film, it is also a heart-warming coming of age story about life and friendship. With these two elements perfectly combined, it creates something extremely exceptional.

I need to get a couple of things clear before I start. I have read the book, I really liked the book, but it was so long ago my memories of the book are buried so deep I have struggled to recall them. Plus my reading has dropped off so dramatically that I’ve never re-read IT. As for the TV adaptation I liked it, mostly for Tim Curry’s Pennywise but as with a lot of King’s adaptation’s they are very hit or miss for me, and it was just ok in the end.

So you know my position on the book and TV film, as for the remake, reimaging whatever you want to call it, I was extremely excited to see it, dearly hoping it would have been at Frightfest 2017! It wasn’t – boo! So I settled for a midnight showing instead at my local cinema.

This is chapter one, as stated at the end of the film, with this chapter concentrating on the kids story and chapter two focusing on the return of Pennywise when they are all adults. For me I understand the split and I like it, not to keen that they are waiting on the box office results to continue with the story. Hopefully from the positive reactions this will happen.

Back to the story of the Loser’s club, a term the group call themselves, due to them being bullied at school and even some of them at home. They are a right bunch of misfits, but the core group, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Richie (Finn Wolfhand), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) are really close friends. They are all extremely good and the casting for me was perfect. While most will gravitate towards Richie as he’s the comic of the group Will and Eddie were both excellent. You actually get the feeling these kids have been friends for a long time, the script and the four actors bounce of each other with ease. That’s quite a trick with such young actors, but here the direction is prefect for them, they all fit their characters and really make the film for me. As the film introduces the remaining bunch of losers I suddenly had a very strong empathy for each one of them and as a group. Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is superb as the four lads come to his rescue. Beverly (Sophia Lillis) the only girl of the group is again a superb bit of casting, she is terrific. A tomboy yet she is so vulnerable as well. Finally Mike (Chosen Jacobs), while he’s very good, his arc and back story is quite rushed and I would have liked to see a little more of him.

One final kid to mention is Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), with an opening to really set the scene, he melts your heart as Bill’s younger brother and then later on in the film he breaks it! (Well he got to my daughter, or she had something in her eye!)

Now as well as the monster Pennywise scaring the bejesus out of the losers club and most of the cinema! There are equally as scary monsters in the everyday lives of the losers. Some of the kids parents, lovers of the book, TV film will know what I mean, the rest can settle in for a couple of very uncomfortable scenes and that is where that can stay. However as scary as Pennywise for me was Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), bloody hell you could just make a movie about this psychopath. Hamilton is superb and really brings the nutcase out of his shell! His scenes with the kids, his grip on reality, his path to hell perfectly dealt with. The look in his eyes, pure monster!

Finally to one of the big questions most will have over this remake, how does Bill Skarsgard perform as Pennywise. The one thing that really stood out from the TV film was Tim Curry as the evil child stealing clown. His performance was superb, actually without it the TV film would have been a rather big miss, Curry elevates it so much it becomes worth watching. So Skarsgard had big clown boots to fill! Firstly the new look of Pennywise is incredible, as soon as I saw the first still of him he creeped me out. Skarsgard for me gets it right, he’s not as playful as Curries version, but he’s downright scarier, the first encounter is great, and then each separate attack with each loser club member just grows in intensity, to the final showdown.

While not a jump-fest, there are some quite jumpy moments along with some rather creepy ones and for me it was perfectly paced, it’s over two hours but I really didn’t seem to mind, it flew by.

Beautifully shot and with a strong direction by Andy Muschietti IT delivers on all counts, I have to thank my lack of memory for not putting me at odds with either the book or TV film. I have to say Muschietti has a strong eye for horror, while I didn’t like the film of Mama, I did like the short. Here he gets it right, his direction is perfect. He gets the performances from the kids and a perfect one from Skarsgard. I hope he stays around to do chapter two!

I seem to have deviated from the story of IT a little, look it’s a horror film about a scary clown stealing kids from a small town and eating them. What

more do you need to know? Except if you like horror then you must see this film. If you love the book or Curries Pennywise then still see the film I think you’ll find enough here to like about IT.

If you hate clowns then you HAVE to see this film!

I really wish I had seen this with our fellow RRS writer Mr Logan, I can say without a doubt he would have jumped and maybe even squealed, yes Mr Logan has been known to squeal in horror films!

My favourite horror film this year!!!

Remember those teaser trailers that now seem an age away? A good few months of publicity before we even heard Pennywise speak? The red balloons. The nostalgic, Stranger Things vibe being pushed into our eyeballs over and over again? How exciting was that?! How much did we want, nay, NEED to see the remake of IT. Sure there were naysayers, but they were wrong, right? There’s no way this couldn’t be good? Brace yourselves, there is much praising to be done.

After having my heart broken over and over again by hyped horror – Babadook, Berbarian Sound Studio, Monsters – and remakes that promised the earth – ANOES, Inside, Martyrs – I should have been weary of IT, but I wasn’t. I’ve been on board the giddy train of excitement from the beginning, heading straight towards Derry to claim my place in the Losers Club.

Opening with near identical scenes to the 1991 original, we end up with Georgie at the storm drain, allowing us our first proper introduction to Skarsgards overnight infamous Pennywise, instantly intimidating. Gone is the playful theme accompanying Tim Currys child appealing Pennywise of the 90’s, replaced by something much more sinister, with an underlying evil intention. Straight away, I beam, eyes widening, immediately welcoming this despicably dark version of my childhood favourite to my heart and then some. What follows is outstanding performances, incredible story telling and genuinely tense scares.

The greatest thing you could say about IT, is that I only twice thought about the original as I was watching, and that was only in terms of how the sequel would run. This is a film in itself, not a mere money making remake, not a crass nod to what came before it, IT is its own film. It’s hard to ignore the amount of love poured into this, from how well the cast carry it, to how the script is formed and grows.

For me, Skarsgard is a different breed of villain, much more menacing and self aware than most horror baddies, knowing the effect he has on his young prey and relishing this power. I adored the way he teased, played and ultimately scared the Losers, stirring in me a giddy childhood nervous excitement.

All praise cannot be given to Skarsgard, however, as the real hero’s of the hour are the children. So natural and fluid is their friendship, that they bring genuine heart to the film, making you love and for each and every one of them. Whilst my brazen horror exterior was rooting for Pennywise, my good conscious wanted them to succeed in banishing him. (Fangirls out for a second). Sophia Lillis in particular was outstanding, beautifully portraying such a pained young woman, worn and broken at the hands of those around her, more specifically her abusive father. The film touches upon this more so than before, and it is as uncomfortable to watch as you would imagine. Your heart breaks for her, this girl now definitely going places.

The whole look of the piece is a gorgeous nostalgia tinted dream, reminiscent of all the 80s kid friendly horrors we know and love. There are obvious comparisons to Stand By Me and Goonies, but who doesn’t like those? Pennywise’s overhaul is incredible, going beyond lazy circus clownery, and hints that this evil has existed for far longer than what appears on the surface. I believe this will be referenced in the next chapter.

In conclusion, all you need to know about IT is that it’s not trying to rip you off. It wants you to be scared, it wants you to care about the cast, it wants to tell you a great story, and it does, it more than does. I hope this will become the standalone classic is so deserves to be, that the next chapter will float too. Screw me that was cheesy. Sorry guys.

IT is at cinemas from the 8th September (UK) 




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