There’s another Stephen King adaptation in theaters. King has written a massive number of successful novels with several of them being adapted for the big and small screen. IT was released as a novel in 1986 with a TV adaptation in 1990. With the latest big budget production, there was the inevitable fear of being disappointed when comparing the film to the novel. Thankfully, we have a fantastic movie filled with great performances and several intense moments.
The novel and TV movie told the story of a group of characters, taking place in two time periods in their lives–the late 50s and mid-80s. The current telling focuses on the characters’ youth with the time period moved to 1989. The changes seen are easily accepted and overlooked due to the great execution in this presentation.
Set in the small town of Derry, we are introduced to a group of kids simply trying to survive adolescence and school bullies. When an evil force in the form of a clown named Pennywise starts preying on the town’s youth, it’s up to the Losers’ Club to take matters in their own hands in order to survive.
Really good horror and suspense movies are few and far between these days. IT starts off right away making you care about the characters (or victims). With the narrative centered around the children, it’s easier to become immersed in the story. While there are benefits in seeing the lives of the characters as children and adults in the novel, there is also more suspense this way. The changes made do add some surprises, such as with the kids’ biggest fears. These changes also mean none of the characters are safe…
The performances are brilliant. There are a lot of characters that need to be introduce, and it never feels like forced set up. Each scene pulls us further into the fictional town. Seeing moments of camaraderie along with the struggles and threats the kids face makes them feel more realistic. This isn’t just a movie about a killer clown. There’s a lot going on in the characters’ lives and in Derry. These young actors all do a spectacular job.
Bill Skarsgård is also phenomenal as Pennywise. Tim Curry was amazing in the 1990 version, but the character here is introduced and handled in a different fashion. Curry’s Pennywise was freakishly creepy but the shadows and muted colors used with Skarsgård’s performance adds a new level of chills. Clowns can be disturbing and a little scary at times. This is a clown you do not want to see walking down the street or lurking in your dreams.
The other benefit of the new version is the R-rating. Those familiar with the novel are aware of the darker themes and violent moments the TV movie shied away from. Pennywise is brutal here. He doesn’t hold back. Combined with the eerie settings and intensely loud music and sound effects, there are plenty of moments that might make you cringe or jump. One minor moment, while not containing any blood or violence, was particularly disturbing involving Pennywise and a fridge.
The two hours and fifteen minute running times allows for a full story to be told. You feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Knowing that the story is being split up compared to the novel, there’s one of those moments where it feels like the movie might be coming to an end. When the movie continues a lot longer, you become even more immersed in the story. The other recent Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Tower, had a 90 minute running time and was a let down. With so much source material, this movie does this part of the story justice. And you’ll still be left wanting more.
As a big Stephen King fan, watching the movie adaptations can sometimes be frustrating. IT does a stellar job in handling the story. There is a great blend in chills and thrills along with seeing some humanity within the characters. It’s not a completely dark and dreary film as you will even find yourself laughing at times. That’s what makes the viewing experience more meaningful. Seeing the different sides to the characters makes you care compared to the typical slasher film where random teenagers are killed. I loved the novel way back when I first read it and am overjoyed we now have this version.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for a sequel. Let’s also hope we don’t actually see any clowns in real life floating towards us.