Stephen King's "It" Review
Just when it was safe to go back to the circus, Stephen King’s It arrives in theaters and Pennywise dances back into our nightmares to give a whole new generation a bad case of coulrophobia. The much anticipated New Line and Warner Bros. adaptation of King’s horror classic about a homicidal clown terrorizing a small Maine town, broke box office records this past weekend having the third largest opening of 2017. Fans of the book and the original movie were not disappointed, giving the film an 88% Fresh rating on the review website Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently, audiences love hating clowns.
The film centers around seven kids from a small town in fictional Derry, Maine during the summer of 1988. Children in the town start to go missing including Georgie, the little brother of one of the seven friends, Bill Denbrough (played by Jaeden Lieberher). Bill becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Georgie and soon has his friends obsessed as well, especially when they each begin to have visions of a dagger-toothed clown. They soon find out the visions are real and that Pennywise the Dancing Clown has a long murderous history in Derry. The film only touches on the town’s history with Pennywise, but reports from the sequel seem to indicate that all will be revealed in part two of the two-film series. The seven friends bond over their awkward and prepubescent weirdness forming, what their bullies call, the "Loser’s Club". Together they protect each other and try to find out what is haunting their town.
The film was the perfect updated version of the original. What worked in this film would not have worked in 1990 and vice versa. In the 1990 made for TV miniseries, the story took place in the summer of 1960 and the kids had an innocence about them true to that era. This newer version is much darker. For example, Beverly Marsh, the token girl of the group, lives alone with her physically abusive father. In this new version, her father is much worse. Beverly shows a strength in this version, though, that she did not have in the original. Played by the red-haired beauty, Sophia Lillis, this new version of Bev has her as the tough girl, a loner who believes she does not need anyone to take care of her (probably because she has always had to protect herself). In another example, Ben Hanscom (played by Jeremy Ray Taylor) gets caught by the town bullies in a scene that is almost exactly the same in the original. Right up until lead bully, Henry Bowers (played by Nicholas Hamilton), pulls out a Swiss army knife and threatens to carve his name into Ben’s belly. In the 1990 film, Ben flips over the fence the bullies are holding him against before Henry starts cutting him. In this version, though, Henry gets almost a full "H" carved into him before Ben kicks him and rolls down an embankment. Between the violence and the language, the kids from the '80s are more hardcore than the kids from the '60s. It works, though, especially with the cult appeal of the '80s and shows like Stranger Things. Finn Wolfhard, one of the stars of Stranger Things, even plays the smart mouthed Richie Tozier.
Pennywise the Dancing Clown also went through a makeover for this film. Tim Curry, played Pennywise in the 1990 version and he was truly terrifying. The clown in the 2017 film, played by creepy Bill Skarsgård, is terrifying as well but in a completely different way. Curry was terrifying in his simplicity. He could make the audience scream just by a look or how he walked down a flight of stairs. Skarsgård’s Pennywise was terrifying in his absurdity. He appeared in the most creative ways possible, contorting his body in ways that would make a gymnast cry. Both live up to the Stephen King fans’ high expectations.
Stephen King’s It will give horror movie lovers something to go back to the movies for. After the disappointment of the Dark Tower, another King novel adaptation that had high expectations, but did not live up to them. Fans should be pleasantly (or horrifyingly) pleased. Just in time to get audiences into the Halloween spirit, It will leave scary movie lovers in high anticipation for part two of the series. It may make you think twice about hiring that clown for your kid’s next birthday party, but it will be well worth the sacrifice.