Evoking the coming-of-age, adventure-horror escapades of the ’80s, “It” terrorizes with precision, as its young protagonists face their fears in the form of a monstrous and deadly clown.
The film, an appropriately skin-crawling adaptation of the Stephen King novel, manages to shock and awe, several predictable situations notwithstanding.
This is a reboot, actually; the story first got its live-action treatment in a 1990 miniseries, where the villainous clown, Pennywise, was played by Tim Curry.
In this reimagined iteration, Bill Skarsgård disconcertingly portrays the circus creep, haunting the depressing town of Derry—specifically its abused and frightened kids, during one especially ominous summer.
Leading these youngsters is the stuttering Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), who is looking for his long-lost brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). Dubbed the Losers’ Club, the gang of misfits is made up of the overweight Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor); the “dirty” girl, Bev (Sophia Lillis); the “lazy” Jewish boy, Stan (Wyatt Oleff); the hypochondriac, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer); the loud-mouthed Richie (Finn Wolfhard); and the black outcast, Mike (Chosen Jacobs).
Despite its large cast, “It” manages to shine the spotlight on each of the bullied children, their anxieties manifesting in ways that Pennywise, the enigmatic, sewer-dwelling monstrosity, creatively and maniacally exploits.
Sturdy and reflective of the era’s cultural quirks, the film by Andy Muschietti—who previously directed the aptly horrific but heartfelt “Mama”—lures with omnipresent villainy, but also pinpoints the distinctly real horrors of childhood.
It’s unapologetically gruesome, going for extreme jolts with its unrestrained depiction of child endangerment, and emphasizing that no one is truly safe in their harrowing ordeals. But, despite its unabashed focus on bloodshed, there is still cute, innocent humor lighting up the murk and misery with palpable hope.
Like a number of recent films and shows (“Stranger Things,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” etc.), the horror flick revives some ’80s classics and puts them to good use. “It’s” soundtrack captures much of the era’s eclectic musical taste, flavoring scenes with familiar songs by The Cure, XTC, Young MC and New Kids On The Block.
Thanks to this chapter’s current box-office and critical success, the inevitable sequel is already being planned—hopefully, one that has new, mystifying things to offer. “It” is a thoroughly brutal but tense dissection of fear and growth, as well as a straightforward good-versus-evil adventure, and it would certainly be wise to revisit a less predictable, more discomfiting Pennywise.