Remakes are usually discarded long before they release out into theatres. Audiences complain that directors will stray too far from their predecessor’s path and venture into unfamiliar territory turning cult classics into box-office bombs. This isn’t the case for Andy Muschietti’s It, inspired by the brutal horror novel by Stephen King. To call this version a “remake” wouldn’t be acceptable, it would be more correct to call it an adaptation of the novel itself and not the mini-series directed by Tommy Lee Wallace in 1990 starring the amazing English actor Tim Curry in the titular role. Though the 1990 version hit the small screen only, it became a cult classic and sparked a whole new generation of kids with coulrophobia (fear of clowns).
From the start of the new adaptation, it is apparent that the dark and ominous Derry, Maine will be scarier than the killer clown himself. Each home equipped with dark hallways and flooded cellars, libraries with horrifying basements, woods with large sewer pipes to get lost in, even the local fluorescent-lit drug store is run by a possible pedophile. Though the scariest character is introduced quite quickly, the real spotlight goes to the kids who play the main roles. The troubled stuttering young Bill, recently traumatized over the loss of his younger brother, (a scene which made the movie show it wasn’t here to play games) the fast-talking hypochondriac attached to his mothers’ hip, the foul-mouthed wisecracking comedian, and the somewhat silent but logical Jew stricken with OCD. These misfits somehow find themselves befriending a lonely and overweight new kid on the block, an orphaned African-American who is the target of local bullies, and a smart, fire-haired girl who is also an easy target to the local bullies. Each and every character seem to share the spotlight harmoniously and the sense of real relationships between them can be sensed through the screen. The addition of real-life problems such as puberty and humiliation makes you connect on a personal level. That is why this horror film fell short of hitting the mark of absolutely terrifying.
Though the casting of Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård is on point, the real chink in It’s shining new armor is the use of CGI. Sure, CGI allows the clown to roll out of a refrigerator and assemble himself like a Rubik’s Cube but scenes where his jaws open up are less scary and more just creepy. The real lasting effects from It lies in Skarsgård’s performance, with his odd and unknown accent as Pennywise The Dancing Clown, the distance between Tim Curry’s version is astronomical. This fresh new character is soft spoken and almost childlike with words, rather than the boisterous and manic 1990 version. While the obvious influence of clowns gave birth to Tim Curry’s beautiful performance, Skarsgård’s lingers more on the fact that this isn’t a clown at all, it’s just wearing that as a skin. Some of the most uneasy moments were seeing It’s face change and distort from manic laughter into downright predatory instinct. The only downside being the CGI getting in the way of the actor’s performance showing this.
With the addition of a bunch of jump-scares turning the two-hour film into a horror delight, the film also added a bit of the unexpected: comedy. The talkative hypochondriac takes the cake for performances, with brash quips to contrast the curse-laden comic, played by Jack Dylan Grazer and Finn Wolfhard respectively. In fact, the use of curses adds a huge comedic effect to the whole film and arguably takes away from the terror (such as the scene with Eddie breaking his arm while It transforms before the group), but adds the realism we all went through at 13. The lost and lonely Beverly Marsh played by Sophia Lillis breaks off as a story of her own, with a sexual-abusive father and attempts by bullies to make her life horrible. The newcomer shines as a pubescent 13-year-old trapped in a love triangle with leader of the Loser’s Club, Bill Denbrough played by Jaeden Lieberher and the constantly bullied overweight member of the club Ben Hanscom played by Jeremy Ray Taylor. The far more serious (for good reason), orphaned Mike Hanlon played by Chosen Jacobs shows that you don’t need to be an outcast to be in the club, just different. Finally, the quiet and supportive Jewish germaphobe struggling to get through his Bar Mitzvah, also struggles with possibly one of the most horrifying manifestations of It in the movie. They all shine in their own ways and each with a distinct attitude that matches their character to a T.
The original enemy of the gang, sociopathic Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), is every kid’s nightmare at school. He is albeit a bit less sociopathic and troubled than his literary counterpart, though his performance is not marred by this fact. His minions, which were given much more screen time than those in the made-for-TV version, made good adversaries to the kids while It wasn’t lurking around. The most noticeable thing, and by far the best part about this movie, is the lack of adults. Though adults appear in the movie, they are often shown in a negative and small way. Almost every adult portrayed in the film brings with them a negative connotation or are bringing the children down in some way. This gives the kids the role of heroes and shows them taking control of the situation with no interference by the adults of the town, which are oddly nowhere to be seen in most scenes.
Though It was brought down by the CGI effect laden scenes, that no doubt still horrified me briefly, the film is a classic. The performances given by the actors and Skarsgård were phenomenal in their own ways and not once clashed with each other on the screen. With many new additions from the written work that made its way into this film and not the 1990 version, it will be interesting to see what will be added and expanded upon in the upcoming sequel. Hopefully, the killer clown will make an even more disturbing return and not brought down by quick special effects making the clown look more of a silly cartoon than a terrifying alien. Despite, the one small flaw that I found watching this blockbuster, I can truly say that it was well worth the wait and I am floating for any and all announcements regarding its successor in the series “It: Chapter Two”.
Image credits: 1 – CNET 2 – PopSugar