Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the children he has eaten, and the ones who stand up to him are a welcome addition to the rising and falling catalogue of Stephen King’s novels brought to the big screen.
As rare as this is in the case of movie adaptations, “IT” does well with the changes that stray from the original source material of the 1986 novel.
Unlike “The Dark Tower” (released in July) the compacted story of “IT” moves along at a decent pace, hitting most of the key elements that they could in a 2-hour span. This includes the formation of The Losers Club, the looming presence of the bullies and Pennywise, the dark history of Derry, and other details that are too many to list.
The newly updated version of this story does an excellent job at putting a new spin on many of these key elements, making the story feel fresh and allowing it to stand out from previous versions.
If you’re familiar with the book, like I am, the changes made for the movie stick out like a sore thumb. But for once, they are not unwelcomed.
One of the most notable being the change in time. Derry, Maine sees a progression from the 1950s to the 1980s, but remains a dark rural town with evil lurking in every sewer grate and darkened hallway.
A new and improved Pennywise stalks the streets of Derry looking for children to float with him. Bill Skarsgård does a wonderful job of portraying this horrifying, shapeshifting clown, and he nails the performance from the haunting cracking voice that falls from high to low echoing off sewer walls, all the way down to the utter hate you can feel he has for the children of this town.
The one thing that seemed too theatric even for this clown was the caffeine-induced tremoring way he continually charged at The Loser’s Club. A more meaningful change seen in the film is the newfound confidence in Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), making her one of the bravest out of her friends.
The film kicks off with the first pages of the novel, the iconic scene of Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) running down Derry’s flooded streets, chasing after his paper boat, ending in the unfortunate and disturbing encounter with Pennywise. As the movie progresses, we see our friendly clown changing its form to meet each child’s fear.
As a break from the horror variety show, there are well-needed heartwarming scenes, such as The Losers Clubs’ time spent at the Quarry, and Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) finally joining the fold.
Once the Losers are all here, they start their paranormal investigation, aided by Ben Hanscom’s (Jeremy Ray Taylor) extensive research on Derry’s History, Bill Denbrough’s father’s map of the sewer system and their bikes that take them to the epicenter of all that is wrong with Derry.
As the investigation unravels, Pennywise becomes increasingly desperate to stop the children as they get closer to discovering his secrets and his lair. The movie neatly wraps up with a showdown between the kids and Pennywise, as well as the epilogue that follows.
These final scenes leave us scared, satisfied and expectantly waiting for the second half of the novel to come to theaters so that we can be terrified by Pennywise yet again - and hopefully just as entertained and touched by the adult members of the Loser’s Club.
The story isn’t just about a clown on a killing spree, and to me that’s what makes this film such an enjoyable experience - and how it stands out from other movies in the horror genre.
The actors do a great job of portraying some of the major themes of the story: friendship and childhood. During the movie, you see a band of lovable outcasts tormented by bullies and evil, which aides in the formation a powerful bond that is their friendship.
The light-hearted moments were mainly carried by the childish and explicit jokes of Richie “Trash mouth” Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) and the constant rants of germs from Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer). Both made me forget that just minutes before I was covering my eyes to hide from the clown.
Throughout the film, we get an insight into the secret world of a childhood in which we all once lived, we see where they go despite what their parents think, what they fear, and all the trouble they get themselves into and still somehow come back unafraid of what could happen to them.
The film is already doing well in its opening week, currently sitting “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and making $51 million on opening night, making it the largest grossing R-rated horror film to be released in September (yes, that’s a very specific title, but a record broken nonetheless). Director Andy Muscietti (“Mama”) has said that “IT Chapter 2” is his top priority, so we can hope to expect yet another record-breaking sequel to hit theaters in the near future.
“IT” has a little something for everyone: horror for the scary movie lovers, humor and charm for those terrified of Pennywise, a compelling story for those skeptical of an IT reboot, and a faithful adaption for all of Stephen King’s Constant Readers.
Do yourself a favor and go watch “IT,” preferably in the daytime, though.