IT (R16, 135 MINS), DIRECTED BY ANDRESMUSCHIETTI,
Welcome to Stephen King World, circa the 1980s.
We’re in a small town in Maine, of course. It’s a landscape of weathered white clapboard houses, Momand Pop convenience stores and pharmacies, movie houses showing only films that contain some jokey reference to another Stephen King adaptation and where groups of friends get around in gangs of four, preferably on BMXbikes, while fleeing from the neighbourhood bullies.
Put like that, It never was much more than a horror rewrite and expansion of King’s The Body – the novella which was adapted for the screen as Stand By Me – but with the insight and nuance of the earlier book replaced by a psychopathic clown who dwells in the sewers of the town.
Eighties King was never exactly subtle in his metaphors.
On the page, It is an engrossing enough character study of four middle-aged men looking back to the horrific events of 27 years earlier, when a host of school-age children went missing at the hands of said clown.
The book has been adapted once before, in 1990, as a four-hour miniseries of fluctuating quality. The series retained the present/past format, but discarded most of the 1100-page novel’s sub-plots. I do like the symmetry with which this second adaptation of It has been released, 27 years after the TV series. But there most of my admiration for this film ends.
Director Andres Muschietti ( Mama) and his writers – including the terrifically talented Carey Fukunaga ( Beasts of No Nation) – have also thrown out most of what makes the book memorable, that is the relationships between the characters, in favour of a collection of set pieces during which a kid either does or doesn’t get killed.
The film deals only with the childhood-set part of the book – which is probably wise – but never really establishes the cast as anything other than a small selection of over-familiar Stephen King regulars.
There’s the nerd, the fat kid, the troubled orphan and, inevitably, the slightly older and more worldly girl who the boys are left free to objectify and project their fantasies on to.
After the stupendously good series Stranger Things – which paid homage to King as much as it did Steven Spielberg – It seems more than a little redundant. While Stranger Things knew exactly how and when to update and gently mock its inspirations, this It just puts a bullet-point reading of half of the book on-