Terror-filled trip back to the 80s
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