IT is the highly anticipated film adaptation of the 1986 Stephen King novel, focusing on the cursed town of Derry, Maine. This is where a demonic presence (taking the form of Pennywise the dancing clown) terrorises and murders children every 27 years, shapeshifting into their worst nightmares. The narrative follows a group of misfit children that call themselves ‘The Losers Club’, who together attempt to end this malevolent curse.
There was previously a miniseries in 1990, perhaps most famous for Tim Curry’s electric performance as Pennywise. This 2017 iteration is directed by Andres Muschietti, his second film after the grating, cliche-ridden Mama (2013). Muschietti replaced Cary Fukunaga, who is only represented by the film with a writing credit.
IT is hypnotic and tension-fuelled for the first half, flowing very naturally. Fukunaga’s influence in tone remains, fully fleshing out its captivating characters. The film wildly succeeds in its casting, with ‘The Losers Club’ members, Jaeden Libeher and Finn Wolfhard giving particularly genuine performances as group leader Bill and foul-mouthed Richie, respectively. Facing stiff competition from Tim Curry, Bill Skarsgard makes Pennywise his own with a supremely sinister and charismatic performance. The film also features a thoughtful and melodic score by Benjamin Wallfisch and is handsomely shot by Chunghoon Chung.
Unfortunately, IT becomes rather wearing in its second half and its scares cheap and uninventive. The ending is quite predictable, with too much concern of setting up the upcoming second part. The visual effects are also surprisingly ropey despite the film’s modest budget.
If you’re looking to be suitably scared, prepare to be disappointed. This is more ‘funhouse’ scary than truly neck-prickling – more in the vein of Richard Donner’s The Goonies (1985). Although IT may not do much to advance the horror genre, it’s certainly thrilling enough, particularly in its first half, to pass the time well.