Clown jewel…

Total Film - - Contents - Jamie Gra­ham

Those of you with a fear of clowns should steer clear.

CER­TIFI­CATE 15 DI­REC­TOR An­drés Muschi­etti STAR­RING Bill Skars­gård, Jae­den Lieber­her, Sophia Lil­lis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dy­lan Grazer SCREEN­PLAY Gary Dauber­man, Chase Palmer, Cary Fuku­naga DIS­TRIB­U­TOR Warner Bros RUN­NING TIME 135 mins

Never mind the 1990 minis­eries with its card­board cut-out per­for­mances and wob­bly spi­der seem­ingly fash­ioned from the BFG’s pipe clean­ers. It’s taken 31 years for Stephen King’s doorstep mag­num opus to reach the big screen, mak­ing It, good or bad, the hor­ror event of the year. Well, the great news is – not least given there was a waft of the sew­ers dur­ing pre-pro­duc­tion as True De­tec­tive di­rec­tor Cary Fuku­naga walked to be re­placed by Mama’s An­drés Muschi­etti – It is worth the wait.

Wisely opt­ing to adapt just the half of the novel that fo­cuses on the seven pro­tag­o­nists as kids – a planned se­quel will re­visit them 27 years later – this sees Bill (Jae­den Lieber­her), Bev­erly (Sophia Lil­lis), Richie (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), Ed­die (Jack Dy­lan Grazer), Ben (Jeremy Ray Tay­lor), Mike (Cho­sen Ja­cobs) and Stan (Wy­att Ol­eff) band to­gether to form The Losers’ Club.


The name fits: var­i­ously plagued by bad par­ents, poverty, ill­ness, eth­nic­ity, a stut­ter, grief, obe­sity and short­sight­ed­ness, their mis­fit sta­tus at­tracts the at­ten­tions of a trio of bul­lies led by Henry Bow­ers (Ni­cholas Hamil­ton). But now a more ur­gent ter­ror has in­vaded their lives: It, a name­less, age­less evil that rises from the sew­ers ev­ery 30 years or so to feast on the kids of the town­ship of Derry, Maine.

All of the big de­ci­sions made by Muschi­etti and screen­writer Gary Dauber­man work, from the choice to split the book, to up­dat­ing the kids’ time­line from 1958 to 1989 (both holdovers from the script by Fuku­naga and Chase Palmer), to re­turn­ing It to the shape-shifter of the novel. The minis­eries locked in on It’s go-to get-up of Pen­ny­wise the Danc­ing Clown, with Tim Curry ca­pa­bly fill­ing the big shoes. Here, played by Bill Skars­gård, Pen­ny­wise once more plays a vi­tal part, with the Swedish ac­tor’s chilling turn rein­ter­pret­ing the role as thor­oughly as Heath Ledger roughedup Jack Ni­chol­son’s iconic Joker. But there’s more, with some ju­di­ciously ap­plied CGI al­low­ing Pen­ny­wise to morph into each of the Losers’ great­est fears – which are not, thank­fully, a cav­al­cade of ’80s screen mon­sters to of­fer a first-base up­date of the Uni­ver­sal mon­sters in the book.

That said, there is some­thing of Freddy Krueger to the way It adapts his en­vi­ron­ment to mess with the kids’ heads. The house on Nei­bolt Street

– a pause while fans of the book shud­der – is to It what the boiler room is to Freddy, and when the Losers en­ter this lair, all rules of time and space are flushed down the toi­let. And while we’re peer­ing down the porce­lain, let it also be said that It con­tains an icky set-piece that makes for the best bath­room scene in King-based cin­ema since the rot­ting woman lurched from the tub in Kubrick’s The Shin­ing.

But the real rea­son It works is be­cause it takes time with the kids, rev­el­ling in their colour­ful lingo and com­rade­ship as much as their fears. The young cast is ex­cel­lent, with special call-outs for Lil­lis and Lieber­her, and praise can’t get any higher than to say their chem­istry re­calls not just Stranger Things, but the banter and heartache in the daddy of all King adap­ta­tions, Stand By Me. Ter­rific.


Thrilling and haunt­ing, pitch­ing the power of ad­ven­ture and friend­ship against the day-to-day hor­rors of child­hood and a chilling Pen­ny­wise. An ab­so­lute scream.

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