When word spread that Stephen King’s classic tale,”It,” was being remade, many wondered if Pennywise the Clown would be as memorable as Tim Curry’s Pennywise was in the made-for-TV movie.
I’m here to report that Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is not only entertaining, but also loads scarier and much more demented than Curry’s rendition of the killer clown. While Pennywise may be the talk of the movie going into the film, it’s the young actors who steal the show in director Andy Muschietti’s film. Muschietti is known for directing the recent horror hit, “Mama.”
While an effective horror film, “It” is more of a coming of age tale about a group of friends living in the small town of Derry, Maine. The Losers Club, as they are called, all have run ins with Pennywise early on. Bill, played by Jaeden Lieberher can’t catch a break, as he is picked on by town bullies for his stutter, and his little brother, Georgie, has been missing for 8 months. Of course, we know how Georgie met his demise.
While Pennywise terrifies the young teens, it’s real life issues that seem to be the tormenter for kids. Eddie, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, is dealing with hypochondria. Stan, played by Wyatt Oleff, is trying to please his Jewish parents, while Richie, played wonderfully by Finn Wolfhard masks his insecurities with comedy and foul-mouthed humor. Mike, played by Chosen Jacobs, is plagued by the fire that took his parents’ lives. Beverly, played by Sophia Lillis, has to deal with a bad reputation and a creepy father who seems to be a borderline pedophile. And then there’s Ben, a husky boy with a big heart, who feels out of place in Derry.
The strength of “It” is the kids. Odds are that every audience member will sympathize and relate, in some way to the young characters, which makes the movie that much more terrifying.
Skarsgard’s portrayal of Pennywise is nothing short of terrifying. His high pitched, whispery voice, mixed with his horrifying shrill of a laugh won’t soon be forgotten. Make no mistake about it, Skarsgard is the quintessential Pennywise, as the audience will not be able to get his jagged teeth and elongated forehead out of their memory anytime soon.
Stephen King may have been done an injustice with the recent “The Dark Tower,” as it was a bomb in every way. With the current series,”Mr. Mercedes” earning solid reviews and now Muscietti’s stellar adaptation of “It,” it appears King is back on top of the horror world, right where he belongs.
One difference from the book is Muschietti electing to have the story take place in the 80s, rather than the 50s. This was a wise decision, as the audience frequently chuckled at the music and even the movies that were showing on the marquee at the Derry Theater. Given the majority of the audience either grew up in the 80s, or will remember the decade, makes the film that much more relatable for filmgoers.
Fans of the book and the TV movie will surely spot a few of the homages to the original film, as well as some of the hit horror films of the 80s. One that I particularly enjoyed was the bathroom scene, which was reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s death scene in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I’m not sure if it was meant to make me think of that, but given the gallons and gallons of blood that was used, I immediately thought back to that scene.
Overall, “It” was quite enjoyable and lived up to my high expectations of the film. Skarsgard was unforgettable as Pennywise, while the child actors made the film. At times I felt like I was watching “Stand By Me,” one of King’s short-story masterpieces.
Unfortunately, the next part of “It” will be focused on the adults, which means a lot less, if any, of the child actors. Muschietti showed that he is more than capable of handling one of King’s best novels, but a lot will depend on the casting of the adult actors. If done well, “It” Chapter 2 will stay afloat.
“It” gets an A-.