A fantastic adaptation of a much loved novel, It features great performances all round and stands as one of the best films of the year.
Adaptations of Stephen King novels have been a mixed bag to say the least. Just a month after the release of The Dark Tower, a film that received a huge critical bashing, comes the first feature film adaptation of King’s 1986 book It. This film comes 27 years after the last adaptation; a TV miniseries starring Tim Curry as the infamous clown, Pennywise. It, directed by Andres Muschietti, provides a modern-day take on the famous novel. Since reports came in that King himself approved of the new film, so much so that he watched it again straight after finishing, expectations for the release have been at an all time high.
It begins with a little boy going missing whilst playing out on the streets. His encounter with Pennywise is a particularly shocking start to the film and sets the tone instantly. We see the boy’s brother Bill, played by Jaeden Lieberher, and his friends still trying to come to terms with the disappearance and wondering whether there is a connection between other disappearances in the town of Derry. The group of kids are outcasts at their school and the bunch of misfits find themselves constantly bullied by Henry, played brilliantly by Nicholas Hamilton.
As the film progresses, each of the “Loser Club” members find themselves face to face with Pennywise and with their darkest fears. Whether it is fear of germs, failure or the terrifying clown himself, each character must face their fears to survive. They each have their own crosses to bear and family life is far from easy for some of the children, especially Beverley, played by Sophia Lills, who is constantly in fear of her abusive father and his expectations of her to be his “Little girl”. It is not just Pennywise who induces fear in each of the characters but the horrors facing them in their own, very real lives.
This time, the role of Pennywise is played by Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård, who is perfect the role as he portrays a chillingly accurate portrayal of the infamous character. Although there was some initial backlash when the first image of his Pennywise appeared online, from the moment he appears on-screen in the first few minutes, he strikes fear in the characters, and through their eyes, the audience as well.
There is a real unity between the Losers Club and each cast member puts in a fantastic performance that adds a different dynamic to the group. Many of the actor’s in the group have little mainstream acting experience but it doesn’t show and they provide a lot of unexpected laughs and manage to relieve the tension through witty remarks and strange facial expressions. It could so easily have fallen into the trap of writing bog standard teenager characters that match the stereotypes set by the wealth of high school films that have come before it, but they provide real heart to the film, something rarely seen in the horror genre.
It doesn’t rely on jump scares, which have become standard for modern-day horror films, but at times the film is genuinely terrifying. Considering this is only his second film, his first since 2013’s Mama, it seems there is still a lot more to come from Muschietti; hopefully, given the roaring success It is bound to be, his career will surely catapult into stardom from here. Whether or not he will be tasked with directing the sequel remains to be seen, and very little is known about the vision for future films and its legacy, but surely there is more to come from this franchise. Maybe this will give other studios the confidence to try to adapt more of King’s novels, It will go down as one of the best films of 2017 and reminds us that horror films can still be entertaining and imaginative, despite some more recent evidence to the contrary.
It (2017), directed by Andy Muschietti, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros., Certificate 15.