Beau McMillan - Contributing Reviewer
I was four years old when Stephen King’s ‘IT’ was adapted for a televised mini-series on ABC. I remember sitting down in front of the old cathode ray tube with a belly full of pop-tarts, half-hidden under my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blanket. I was ready to face the clown. Now, exactly 27 years later, Pennywise the Clown has come back to haunt the town of Derry to remind me that I’m still just a terrified little boy, shaking in my sugar-riddled, light-up velcro sneakers.
Theaters are filled with reboots, sequels, and adaptations these days, and this year’s IT is no exception. In fact, it’s a little of all three. To understand this, lets start with the book. It tells the story of a supernatural force in the guise of a clown that terrorizes the quiet town of Derry, Maine every 27 years. The timing for this film’s release is an impossibly perfect plot device, as it bows into theaters on the 27th anniversary of the television adaptation. The characters bear the same namesakes and the movie takes place in the same time as the TV miniseries did, so one could label it a reboot. They are clever enough to reference that this “event” has happened in Derry before, so it almost acts as an homage to the previous iterations. A large difference is that this film only concentrates on the first part of the miniseries’ story, focusing on the kids. A presumed sequel will feature their adult counterparts.
Though this is essentially a reboot, there are plenty of left turns and surprises that make it feel fresh and unpredictable. Pennywise will make your skin crawl, the kids in the Losers Club all have backstories that will make you cry, and parents still just don’t understand. What really sets this film apart from the miniseries is the cast. Every single actor in this movie pulls their weight and delivers impeccable performances, but the standouts are Bill Skarsgard playing Pennywise, Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh. Skarsgard embodies a younger, more effervescent beast. Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things fame) elicits consistent laughter throughout the entire film, and is by far the standout of IT. Sophia Lillis is kind and compassionate, and would be one of the cool kids had she grown up in the modern era. Her story is similar to the miniseries, but her performance showcases her ability to be badass and fragile at the same time.
IT delivers the perfect balance of humor and horror without compromising either. Without a doubt, IT will have you cracking up at the most random moments, but it doesn’t suffer from the bathos that many films do (I’m looking at you, Marvel). Pennywise is a supernatural presence that cuts into any scene at any moment, but this doesn’t come from cheap jump scares. The horror elements are straight out of a thriller, and they will peel back your psyche by the end of the 135 minute runtime. In this fan’s opinion, Director Andy Muschietti delivers an incredible film on a modest $35 million budget, worthy of the $189 worldwide cume. IT is a film that has plenty replay value, and is wholly deserving of a sequel. The question is, will the sequel arrive in 27 years, or will it just skip to modern day time and take place in 2015? Perhaps an even better question is, who will play the kids as adults? In any case, I hope the inevitable sequel allows for plenty of flashbacks, as I am not ready to say goodbye to the Losers Club just yet.
Starring an ensemble cast including Finn Wolfhard (of Stanger Things fame), Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, IT is rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language. The film is in theaters now!