Stephen King’s It has always been a mainstay of the horror genre, along with being responsible for introducing an entire generation to the concept of coulrophobia. Both the book and the mini-series (starring Tim Curry as Pennywise) have long been held in high regard. However, while Curry’s malicious, frenzied, cunningly humorous version might have given some nightmares, this latest iteration of Pennywise by Bill Skarsgård is a completely different being.

They all float down here. You’ll float, too.

In the heartbreaking opening sequence, the precocious and adorable six-year-old Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) is waiting for his older brother Bill (Jaeden Leiberher) to help him finish a paper boat. Being too sick to leave the house, Bill remains behind while Georgie goes off into the torrential downpour to sail the paper boat down the flooded gutters. When Georgie can’t keep up, the boat races ahead and vanishes down a storm drain. As Georgie bends down to retrieve it, Pennywise appears and, well, you can guess why it’s never good to see a clown in a storm drain.

After his brother’s disappearance, Bill refuses to accept that Georgie is dead. Despite scepticism from his friends and anger from his father, Bill becomes obsessed with finding out what happened. Thanks to the combined effort of his friends, the self-titled Losers Club, Bill discovers that other children have been disappearing around their home town of Derry.

You’ll float, too.

Derry seems like your ordinary, Middle American small town. The book was originally written in the Eighties, with the first half taking place in the late Fifties, but the first half has been brought forward for this film to match up with our current timeline. As such, we get our first look at the Loser’s Club in the height of Eighties nostalgia. It’s slightly reminiscent of Stranger Things, made more noticeable by Finn Wolfhard’s presence, but not so much that you can draw a direct comparison.

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You’ll float, too.

The Losers Club starts out as Bill alongside Richie (Wolfhard), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer). Later, they are joined by Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor). Each of the Losers is a social pariah in some way or another, thanks to the cruelty of other kids. The Losers loosely band together first as a form of protection against their outcast status and relentless bullying, but as they progressively fall victim to Pennywise’s mental torture, the group’s cohesion becomes their greatest strength.

From the very beginning, this movie is out to get you. There’s very little in the way of a stereotypical escalation of terror. Instead, we are thrown headfirst into a two-plus hour long nightmare of a roller coaster ride. The film’s sublimely disturbing aesthetic and deeply unsettling tone is relentless and makes for a compelling adaptation if you’re a fan of Stephen King’s brand of horror.

Luckily, this constant onslaught is tempered by the coming-of-age story taking place with the Losers. This strong ensemble of young actors works incredibly well. Along with their camaraderie and strength, their exploits and interactions bring a surprising amount of humour to the film.

You’ll float, too.

The depiction of childhood friendships and bonds forged in times of crises is top-notch. There’s something almost ethereal in how Director Andres Muschietti approaches the dynamic of the Losers Club. The children have total freedom to be complex, three-dimensional characters, without also demanding they behave like mini-adults.

On an individual level, none of the main cast can be faulted. Leiberher and Lillis especially, both shine in their central roles. All the children have a heart-warming sense of fragile bravado, and for all their big talk, the film reminds you in subtle ways that they are still just children. The grown-ups of Derry are rather sidelined while the action focuses on the Losers Club, with adults appearing more as thematic stand-ins for the fears of their kids than actual characters themselves.

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You’ll float, too.

Growing and feeding on these fears is Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Here, Bill Skarsgård has created a wholly different Pennywise from previous screen versions. This Pennywise is a primordial, malevolent evil, a creature steeped in timeless cruelty. In line with the film’s R Rating, Pennywise’s aesthetic is far more chilling than previous iterations – there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a being of pure malice.

While this approach is effective, more preference could have been given to Skarsgård’s absolutely brilliant performance, instead of relying on the character’s overly unsettling and heavily made-up appearance. Skarsgård has this role down pat, his combination of creepy and cajoling will have you squirming in your seat.

You’ll float, too.

Thanks to a reluctance to axe too much of the central story, the film’s runtime feels excessively long. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the film is rich in story, detail and character building. However, over two hours of near-non-stop horror is draining. There’s only so much an audience can take before they effectively go into shock and stop taking in every monstrosity thrown their way, which is a pity when so much painstaking detail has gone into these nightmare creations.

That said, director Andres Muschietti has managed to balance both sides of the film. As a combination horror/coming-of-age story, It works – and strangely well. While Muschietti may have benefitted from a shorter run-time and fewer cheap, telegraphed jump-scares, the delightful cast pulls the film together. It remains to be seen if this magic will work for Chapter Two.

Last Updated: September 13, 2017

It
Summary
Thematically rich and relentlessly terrifying, the latest film adaptation of Stephen King’s It might not break the mould when it comes to horror movies but serves as an exceptional version of the novel on screen.
7.0
70/ 100
  • MonsterCheddar

    My wife is dying to watch this.

  • Magoo

    Great review! Would like to see a roundup of opinions from CH. Not that it would be necessary – just a few more sleepies!

    • Dresden

      I’ve seen a few mediocre and negative reviews of this movie, but this review gave me hope. I’m actually considering watching it now!

      • Thanks to some annoying issues with the screening, Tracy was the only one on staff that’s watched it thus far. However, I’ve spoken to several of the other local film press folk about it, and they’re all in agreement that it’s great.

        Those negative reviews also appear to be the odd ones out. Last I checked I think it was on around 85% or something on Rotten Tomatoes. Majority of people are loving it.

        • Dresden

          That’s good to know. I didn’t know the general rating was so high, otherwise I wouldn’t of bothered taking the bad reviews seriously.

      • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

        Watched it in 4Dx. Fucking brilliant

  • Peet Luckhoff

    Balloons are red, violets are blue, Georgie is dead and you’ll float too.

  • nortee

    “As Georgie bends down to retrieve it, Pennywise appears and, well, you can guess why it’s never good to see a clown in a storm drain.”

    You obviously don’t like Nandos garlic buns… :/

  • nortee

    Joke(r)s aside, I have read the book and have the original. The fact that they have made the ‘first’ part longer than the original can only mean they brought the book more into the movie realm… This (should) only be good. I am chuffed they did that. Having said that because of, shall we call it nostalgia, I am not going to hype myself up. I am going to watch it as a fan of the author and not have any expectations. Having said that…

    “They aaaaaaallllllll… float… down here…”…

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