Directed by: Andy Muschietti | 135 minutes | drama, horror, thriller | Actors: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton
Magisterial film adaptation of Stephen King’s thick, masterful novel, which does not follow the text slavishly, but which manages to capture the atmosphere of the book well.
‘IT’ is the name for an ancient evil creature that dwells in the drainage and sewers of Derry, a small town in the northeastern state of Maine in the US. For centuries, “It” has terrorized locals, especially children, returning every 27 years to feed on the fears of children he kills. He takes on different guises. The most infamous appearance of It is as Pennywise, the dancing clown (Bill Skarsgård). Seven friends led by Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) try to defeat the monster together.
While the book mixes the experiences of the seven as children in the 1950s with how they deal with Pennywise as adults in the 1980s, the film only focuses on the period when the seven become friends in their youth. The choice to move the action from the 50s to the 80s of the 20th century works out well. It positively evokes associations with “Stranger Things” and “The Goonies”. The film is downright horror, but where the film surprises is in how funny the film is at many moments.
The seven friends the film revolves around are all misfits and they are also known as the “Losers” club. In addition to the stuttering Bill, the group consists of the asthmatic Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), the glasses-wearing prankster Richie “Dirtybeak” Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), the Jewish Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff), the obese Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor). , black Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) and the only girl: Beverly Marsh (Sophie Lillis) who has a reputation for being a slut and lives in a poor area of Derry.
As if the threat of the murderous Pennywise and the mounting number of child disappearances weren’t enough, they all have their own problems at home. And then they also suffer from the deranged bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton). Not everyone’s background and home situation are explored equally well, but the sketches that the film gives are certainly recognizable.
Director Andy Muschietti manages to strike a good balance between the lighthearted moments and the unadulterated horror. He mainly uses (old-fashioned) scare effects, which are used effectively. But even without it, the film has a nervously ominous atmosphere, aided by Benjamin Wallfisch’s music and Chung-Hoon Chung’s camera work. The acting by the largely young cast is phenomenal, as is Skarsgård as the self-proclaimed Pennywise clownish incarnation of Het.
In that alone ‘IT’ is already a big improvement compared to the miniseries in two parts from 1990. That version certainly had its scary moments, especially thanks to the brilliant portrayal of Tim Curry as Pennywise, but mainly shot in the sometimes mediocre acting. and the matte denouement too short. The series was also handicapped by the strict requirements for what horror could be shown on television. ‘IT’ certainly doesn’t suffer from that.
There are many people who find clowns not funny at all, but mostly scary. For them, “IT” will certainly not help to take that feeling away. Skarsgård not only knows how to create an eerily deranged clown, but also an interesting new version of Pennywise. In doing so, he places very different accents than the interpretation by Curry, which is known to the public. Both performances are fantastic. Skarsgård’s Pennywise has an almost childlike appearance, as if he doesn’t quite understand what he is yet and tries to find out with a (literally) drooling enthusiasm. In this way Skarsgård manages to convey various emotions even in the darkest scenes. Especially that he has a lot of fun chasing the children and frightening them as much as possible.
There are still plenty of surprises for connoisseurs of the book. Understandably, many crucial book scenes have been changed due to time constraints, but Muschietti also occasionally thoroughly changes some of the storylines. The fate of Patrick Hockstetter and Mike’s family history are examples of this. The most striking change, however, is the climax, where the makers make choices that are quite different from the book. As a fan of the book, it is not easy to interpret that choice entirely within the context of the mythology portrayed by Stephen King. It works within the film, but a final judgment may have to be suspended until part 2 hits theaters.
It’s not for nothing that the credits start with ‘Chapter One’. The makers had plans, but whether that film would be made depended on the success of this first part. They don’t have to worry about that: “IT” broke all kinds of box-office records and that part 2 will be made, seems to be a certainty. There is more than enough reason to look forward to it.