Out of all the horror films I watched as a kid, there were five in particular that scared me the most – “The Exorcist” (no explanation needed!), the original “Halloween” (still my favorite of all time but Michael Myers was a major creeper), the last story in “Trilogy of Terror” (that damned doll was a demonic creep), the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (you mean I can’t even sleep this off, this joker shows up in dreams?!) and the original “It.” Now the last one wasn’t because the film was the scariest of the group, but essentially I’d never watched a horror film prior to it where the central baddie killed “kids,” and I mean young ones – Georgie was only six, right? – unlike Kruger or Mike Myers who were slashing older teens.
And now in theaters, breaking all kinds of records this opening weekend, is the remake of “It” – adapted from the classic Stephen King novel just like the 1990 TV film with one exception, it is spookier. But it’s 27 years later, and the horror genre has completely upped the ante, so of course the horrific shapeshifter known as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown” would be.
In part one of this update – yes, it is broken into two parts like the book and the original – we still find the “Loser’s Club” united in their battle to defeat the killer clown. A kid-driven narrative with an 80’s setting – a change from the older version which was set in 1960, and the novel which starts in the late 50’s – the audience is treated to nostalgic references such as New Kids On The Block and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, so there are sure to be easy comparisons to the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
Especially since one of the film’s actors comes directly from the aforementioned, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Thing’s Mike Wheeler) as Richie Tozier the loudmouth of the group, along with young co-stars Jaeden Leiberher (Bill Denbrough), Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris) and Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak).
The range of emotions displayed by this young cast, as they each deal with turbulent and/or tragic events in addition to the threat of Pennywise, is at a level far beyond their years. With heavy topics, such as bullying, abuse/neglect and incest, the cast had a lot to carry and they more than delivered.
The comic relief is also plenty in this film, which helps a scaredy cat like myself to counter the spooky. It also helped that there was still a bit of camp to the story, I mean you can’t help it when the big bad is a clown.
And speaking of clowns and performances, for those of us who remember the TV film, Tim Curry’s “It” is still a highlight for horror fans. He brought the creepy, campy comedy just right, which left huge shoes for Bill Skarsgard to fill in this 2017 version.
Director Andy Muschietti, whose feature début was the hit horror film “Mama,” mentioned in an August interview that he considered casting Will Poulter (Detriot) as Pennywise, which I’ll be honest I imagined would be perfect after watching him as one of the villainous cops in the film “Detroit.” But Bill Skarsgard made me a believer, and he definitely increases the scare factor with the character. Listen to Skarsgard and Muschietti discussing the Pennywise update in audio (courtesy of Warner Bros.) here:
In short, there was a lot Muschietti could do with the R-rating and big screen advantage that a 90’s TV show couldn’t, and thank goodness for that because “It” is one good scare. The cinematography and score were perfectly eerie when required and the acting is great. This “It” remake will have a lot of people waiting for part two, and stepping sideways by any sewer holes they may pass on an isolated street. 😉
Until next thought, Thomasena