Ter­ror-filled trip back to the 80s

Stirling Observer - - REVIEWS - It (15)

Watch­ing TV movie It back in the early nineties was enough to put me off clowns for life.

Tim Curry’s de­li­ciously devilish turn as Pen­ny­wise was the stuff of night­mares, but watch­ing the three-hour two-parter back now re­veals it hasn’t stood the test of time.

Ripe for a re­make, then, but com­ing just a few weeks on from the dodgy Dark Tower, trep­i­da­tion filled the air ahead of this lat­est Stephen King adap­ta­tion.

There was no need to worry, though, as the 2017 It not only blows its pre­de­ces­sor and The Dark Tower out of the wa­ter, but rates as one of the finest cin­e­matic takes on King’s work.

That’s thanks in no small part to Swede Bill Skars­gård’s chill­ing per­for­mance as Pen­ny­wise. Mak­ing Curry’s clown look like an en­ter­tainer at a chil­dren’s party, this new ver­sion of the hor­ror icon is gen­uinely fright­en­ing, with Skars­gård’s man­ner­isms, make-up and manic vo­cals cre­at­ing an an­tag­o­nist wor­thy of com­par­i­son with Freddy and Ja­son.

Cru­cially, we don’t get bom­barded with Pen­ny­wise ap­pear­ances; his screen time is kept brief and he’s all the bet­ter for it as each time he pops up it feels like an event.

One of the orig­i­nal tele­vi­sion movie’s big­gest flaws was the dodgy per­for­mances of the cen­tral group of bul­lied kids that have to band to­gether to bat­tle Pen­ny­wise.

No such prob­lems here, how­ever, as the young cast are the per­fect mix of fear, fun and fury in and the late-1980s set­ting en­sures more than a few favourable com­par­isons with hit TV show Stranger Things.

Fit­tingly, it also evokes mem­o­ries of King’s own Stand By Me and ev­ery one of the seven kids are given their time to shine as they act in the fash­ion you’d ex­pect them to, rather than as stereo­typ­i­cal fa­cades.

Like many of the Blum­house stu­dios’ out­put of hor­ror movies, di­rec­tor Andy Muschi­etti (Mama) makes use of tra­di­tion­ally in­no­cent props and ob­jects and fills them with ter­ror; the pro­jec­tor scare is one of the film’s finest.

Chase Palmer, Cary Fuku­naga and Gary Dauber­man co-wrote the screen­play and do jus­tice to King’s weighty novel by fo­cus­ing on the child­hood ver­sion of The Losers’ Club.

The plan is for the al­ready green-lit se­quel to shift to the young he­roes as adults, mean­ing the awk­ward time-hop­ping that ex­isted through­out the 1990 adap­ta­tion is kept to the bare min­i­mum.

Muschi­etti doesn’t scrimp on blood and gore, but wisely chooses an abun­dance of ten­sion and drawn-out chills over sev­ered limbs and stalk-and-slash pur­suits.

Like the orig­i­nal It, though, the end­ing doesn’t quite live up to the qual­ity build-up.

Even know­ing a fol­lowup is on the way, the fi­nal con­fronta­tion be­tween The Losers’ Club and Pen­ny­wise can’t help but fall a lit­tle flat.

Thank­fully it’s a mi­nor hur­dle in the road on what is a speedy, slick, scary thrill ride which gives clowns a whole new bad name.

No clown­ing around Bill Skars­gård is chill­ing as Pen­ny­wise

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