His book is iconic. For many horror fanatics, myself included, it’s up there as one of the all time greats. Sprawled across 1200+ pages, King digs deep into the psychology of our ragtag group of heroes, cross cut over two narratives at different points in their lives. The first sees our heroes at the peak of their adolescence, where video games are everything and a cute girl talking to you is unheard of. The second sees them grown up, forced to confront a childhood long left behind. This film is but the first chapter of King’s monumental epic. We follow these characters as they grow, strengthen, confront their fears and maybe also get eaten by a killer clown.
As time passes by, and their friendship grows stronger, the Loser’s Club each starts to witness horrific sights. It brings each of their deepest fears to life, as orchestrated by an evil, child-eating clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). Together, they’re forced to bond in order to defeat the evil and uncover the secrets long buried within the town’s history. It’s a Stephen King story through and through, and, as a matter of fact, it may just be the best Stephen King adaptation in nearly two decades. The film plays out as a non-stop ride of pure terror and anxiety, striking a chord deep down inside and bringing fear into the eyes of even the toughest individuals. If you’ve read the book, don’t be fooled for a second into thinking you know what’s coming.
It, the character, will drain the screams out of you, citing fear as being the seasoning to a good meal. If you’re not afraid, you have nothing to worry about, but when Pennywise is on the loose, being afraid is about the only thing you’ll feel. This is a creature that doesn’t mess about. Of It’s several different manifestations, they do have a tendency to be hit and miss, and the first few feel a little rushed through. A painting come to life doesn’t instill a single ounce of fear, whereas an exploding sink of blood, as well as other terrors too good to mention, are incredibly effective. Some take the literal form of one’s fears, whereas others are an embodiment of something you can’t physically represent e.g. germs or getting one’s period, but they, for the most part, work in their own individual ways.
Or at least, she steals the show from the hero characters, as Bill Skarsgård is the film’s hardest hitting performer. His performance as Pennywise is a never-ending train of freights. Skarsgård has a lot to live up to following in the steps of Tim Curry’s show stopping interpretation, but he manages to not only meet expectations, but exceed them too. This is the definite Pennywise, in what’s going to become the definite adaptation of It, come the release of the second installment. One of the key reasons for this is because of Skarsgård. He’s pure evil, but with a twisted, taunting sense of humour that’ll have you giggling with unease before looking away in freight. A key scene in the so-called Neibolt House is grueling to watch, but it’s Skarsgård at his finest… and scariest.
It is a tale told through the eyes of these children. They have often naïve, but shockingly mature look at the world made by a traumatic set of circumstances, and each and every one of them is full of likability and genuine humanity. When their fears are brought out, their true selves shine. Through their unfortunate curiosity, we get to know the real them. The writing is natural and evenly paced, getting straight into the terror without sacrificing what it is that made King’s book so good in the first place. Plot elements do get skimmed over from time to time, and a whole lot of characters do some… uh… disturbing things without legal consequence (I can’t say what without spoiling), but my admiration for each them overpowered any narrative flaws or inconsistencies.
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