We aren’t entirely finished with Pennywise the Dancing Clown…
In the small town of Derry, children disappear nine times the national average. An unsettling clown, known as “IT” has been terrorising the town for centuries, with a history of violence and murder. The neighbourhood kids, otherwise known as the “Losers Club” unfold this frightening information and work together to try and face their fears, in attempt to discover why IT is targeting them and their town.
Fans of the Horror genre and Stephen King enthusiasts alike have been eagerly anticipating this moment since 2009. This time around, Andy Muschietti takes over the directorial duties, resulting in intrigue and a whole new look for IT. He presents to us a faithful, but careful adaptation that floats on most levels, but tends to slip down the sewer on others. Stephen King’s strength as a writer is his ability to tap into human fears and paint them with a layer of the supernatural. While IT is widely known as a ‘horror’ film, Muschietti’s take can be described as a coming-of-age film, with horror elements thrown in on occasion.
This adaptation can be admired in the sense that IT wasn’t heavily involved, nor was he forced into every scene for the pure sake of it. Otherwise, there would have been an absence of intrigue, and we wouldn’t have craved his presence as much as we did. When he does appear, he is the only thing that matters. Skarsgård as Pennywise is deeply unsettling, and doesn’t mimic Tim Curry’s performance in the slightest. His eccentric ticks and mannerisms make his execution entirely original, along with the weird and wonderful ‘wall-eyed’ addition. Curry’s performance doesn’t hold a balloon to Skarsgård’s. Think Krusty the Clown vs. Freddy Krueger competing on the Monsters Inc Scare-O-Meter; Curry has been out-clowned.
Lately, jump scares are used in a cheap contemporary fashion, tirelessly thrown in the mixture like the excessive amount of cola bottles in a packet of Haribos. Here, they are incorporated more appropriately and sneak up on you unexpectedly. Though, several did fall flat due to an excessive use of CGI. Post-production editing was embarrassingly weak at times, utterly downsizing the level and impact of the scare. Simple does it, and this motto should have been stuck to throughout, rather than taking a trip to Wonderland and back, changing the direction of the piece in a lazy fashion. Another downside was how heavily marketed the film was. Too much was revealed to the audience among the trailers, covering almost every jump scare in the film. This left little unknown. But hey, 3 minute trailers are (sadly) the new ‘norm’…
The film does have one thing, that isn’t always easy to achieve, and that is heart. This element makes up for the lack of terror, as the lovable “Loser’s Club” has characters we truly warm to, and plenty of them. Though, Stanley played by Wyatt Oleff, was the ‘odd child out’ – his expression felt like it was simply stuck in place, limited, and needed a little more OOMPH. When stood next to the rest of the kids, who each blossomed in conveying the individual traits of their characters, he just seems strangely out of place. Numerous visual references pay homage to 80’s classics, Nightmare On Elm Street and The Gremlins – this aids to capture the atmosphere particularly well. Moreover, Muschietti’s choice of shot is commendable. Rather than being confined to dimly lit alleyways which is all too conventional of the genre; Derry shines in the sunlight, yet still manages to ooze out a feeling of unease.
Stephen King adaptations can go one of two ways, and thankfully IT floated towards the sky more so than the sewers. Admittedly, it is not as horrifying as the critics have hyped it up to be, but is still deeply emotional and a lot of fun. The premise created by Muschietti is frankly too amusing to be unsettling.
Written by Georgina Aindow