After lurking in the shadows of our minds for 27 years, Stephen King’s IT reaches the light, as the story is once again brought to life through film.
Though many people think the 1990 TV show is “the” cinematic telling of the story, comparing the new to the old does a bit of a disservice to both versions. Even if collective nostalgic tendencies pull in a certain ’90s direction, it's probably best to look at the two films as separate entities. If a comparison is needed, compare the new film to the true source: the book.
Like many stories that have come from Stephen King, takes place in Derry, Maine—a fictional town that has ties to many of King’s literary works. For most of its history, Derry has been plagued by a series of strange cases of missing children that happen every 27 years. The children are never found and are seemingly forgotten as missing children posters are posted, one on top of the other.
In 1988, Derry is again struck with a string of unexplainable cases and thus begins the present story. Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), little brother to the main character Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), vanishes one rainy day and Bill investigates what may have happened.
Time passes, and it's suddenly 1989 and school has been let out for the summer. As more children go missing, Bill and his friends (The Losers Club) begin to suspect that there may be something more sinister going on than first imagined.
An ancient and demonic entity has awakened from a 27-year slumber and has begun, once again, to prey upon the children of Derry. To spare the town from a fate to which so many others have already succumbed, The Losers Club must face the monster—along with their own personal demons.
IT is not only an effective piece of horror fiction, it's a beautiful and, at times, all too familiar, coming-of-age story. The familiar angst and nervousness of growing up is ever present as the characters battle to understand the risks of life and death and themselves as they begin to leave childhood behind.
There aren't many weak performances from any of the cast. The seven members of The Losers Club are Bill, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Olef). The actors bring the characters to life, investing each child with a sense of individuality.
The inner monologues—a challenge that plagues every King adaptation—that each written character has are honestly and effectively brought to life on the screen. As each of the Losers is introduced to the villain in a unique way, we get a look inside the characters themselves, and their fears and dread become ours.
By the end of the movie, some viewers may feel they know the people involved in the horror better than they know their friends. This is important when it comes to making the story work. Once you understand the inner torture that each character goes through, you can begin to sympathize with and relate to their struggles.
As the shapeshifting entity that plagues the town of Derry in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Bill Skarsgård turns in an oddly unsettling performance. Even though—as a colleague described it—Pennywise may sound like a weird version of Yoda at times, the overall terrifying character of the monster carries through from book to film.
Cinematically, the colorful palette of the picture makes for an eerie yet vibrant type of melancholy. This seems fitting for the film visually. Just like Derry, what may seem beautiful and innocent on the surface, may actually be covering up something much more vile just underneath.
As a horror movie, it may seem unconventional to some. The film's humor and affection—which are prevalent throughout—provide a respite from the usual copy-and-paste horror movie plot; it's welcome. Also there is a warm tenderness to be found that accompanies the horror. This pushes this film beyond campy and gory schlock, and makes it a must-see.