Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Lieberher, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jackson Robert Scott, and Nicholas Hamilton.
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Over the years we’ve seen more than a few cinematic adaptations of Stephen King novels. Many have turned out to be great, while just as many (if not more) have failed to hit the mark. The latest is a big screen adaptation of King’s infamous novel IT, which comes from Mama (2013) director Andy Muschietti. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the material, IT follows “The Losers’ Club,” a group of outsiders in Derry, Maine, who build a unique friendship when they come together to defeat an ancient clown, that emerges from the sewers to feed on the town’s children.
Kicking things off with the positives, it’s hard to deny that Muschietti’s direction is the crowning achievement of this film. The director perfectly captures the disturbing elements of IT and doesn’t shy away from bringing the more brutal sequences to life, while also doing an excellent job pushing the narrative forward and developing the characters, which isn’t something that is often found within the horror genre. Instead of simply throwing gore at the audience and spending too much time concentrating on the horrific side of the story, Muschietti takes the opportunity to introduce the Losers’ Club and make us care about each member of the crew. That isn’t to say that Muschietti doesn’t fully commit to the source material, in fact, the time he spends building the characters only heightens the horrifying conclusion that brings all of the characters together.
Speaking of the Losers’ Club, it’s a testament to Muschietti’s direction that these kids and these young actors are the most enjoyable element of this film. This powerful young cast flawlessly displays the idealistic mind of a child and aided by the fast-paced and hilarious dialogue, each member of the club gets a moment to shine. The clear standouts, however, are Finn Wolfhard’s Richie and Sophia Lillis’ Beverly. These characters bring the most energy to the project, with Wolfhard taking the opportunity to show his comedic side, bringing zingy one-liners and foul-mouthed rebounds to some of the most horrific scenes. Lillis, on the other hand, delivers a profound and powerful performance, expertly portraying a girl on the brink of adulthood.
Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise is ultimately a horrifying experience that will stick with you once you’ve left the theatre. From his very first scene to his terrifying exit, Pennywise is a looming threat, but Muschietti still finds room to make the character entertaining and at times funny. At the end of the day, Skarsgård delivers one of the most original and raw performances of the year, giving us a character that can only grow and evolve over the years to become an iconic piece of the horror genre and cinema as a whole.
Equal to any character and any performance, the music plays a significant role in Muschietti’s IT. Benjamin Wallfisch has done a fantastic job creating this score, and it’s almost shocking how a single piece of music can create the nostalgic feeling of joyous youth and then suddenly switch to become a threatening and looming sound that haunts the audience. This is a score that I will buy, download and listen to when I eventually revisit King’s terrifying novel.
What Didn’t Work?
At times throughout the movie, certain scenes and sequences felt familiar and repetitive. In the first chunk of the film, we are shown each character and their first interaction with Pennywise. This is something that King does very well in the book. However, I can’t help but feel like jumping from one character and their experience to the next, and then the next felt choppy and overly repetitive. Saying that though, it would have been a tragedy to cut out any of these sequences, as they each put us into the minds of the characters and allowed us to connect with the Losers’ Club.
Looking at the wide array of Stephen King adaptations, IT stands among the greatest. Andy Muschietti has found the perfect balance of horror, comedy, and nostalgia, creating not only a great horror movie but one of the most enjoyable coming of age dramas in recent years. Between a great cast, wonderful music and a performance that will go down in history, Stephen King’s original tale continues to be one of the most horrifying and entertaining stories to grace the big screen.