Ever since the novel released back in 1986, Stephen King's IT has been scaring audiences - with a miniseries following in 1990 and putting King's creepy writing into creepy visuals. Suitably, 27 years later, Pennywise is back (coincidentally, in the novel, he reappears every 27 years) - this time played by Bill Skarsgard - and ready to fright audiences once again in the latest adaptation of the story. His ability is quickly on display when young Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) encounters the clown within the film's opening minutes in quite the chilling scene. Assumed dead, the possibility of his survival is something that Georgie's older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is obsessed with proving and, when Pennywise begins to haunt him and his friends (the self-proclaimed 'Losers Club'), this redemption becomes more urgent than ever and leads these kids to band together and stop this monster once and for all.
As a big fan of King's stellar works - especially of the source material here - IT came with a lot of weight for not just myself, but many King fans across the Globe. The miniseries was okay but it did Pennywise justice but, 27 years behind us, fans were itching to see a new take on the beloved horror classic. And, thankfully, IT does a good job of capturing the heart and the eeriness of the novel and it's a very enjoyable affair. However, on the other hand, it is merely just that: an enjoyable affair. For those wanting another King classic in the vein of The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining or even the original Carrie, it's sadly not this. But it is still damn good. Of course, the big question floating over this film: is it scary? Horror is perhaps the most subjective of all film genres and methodologies but, in my opinion, IT doesn't quite live up to its potential because it's frankly not that scary. Director Andy Muschietti - who follows up his 2013 debut Mama here - certainly brings a nice edge of suspense to the proceedings, that permeates a lot of the film. He orchestrates the chills and creepy imagery with sharp precision to create an atmosphere that can be quite unnerving at times but, sadly, it never quite lands the scares. The build-up to each scare is intense and well-executed but it's rather predictable and just when it feels like the film is going for a scare, it pulls back its punches.
There is definitely some great imagery on offer throughout - a scene involving a projector is a scene that shows some excellent use of visual horror - but the film is trying to juggle too many genres and tones to really focus on one single one and nail it in the head. There is a surprising amount of humour sprinkled throughout IT too, thanks largely to the camaraderie between our lead group of kids, but, again, it feels too far and few between to really class this film as much of a comedy either. This film is part-horror, part-comedy, part-coming-of-age and whilst it does well in touching on these genres, the film feels a little too inconsistent at times and it means that the horror doesn't get as much time to really take centre stage and give us a proper scare. It's funny, yes. But not hilarious. It's creepy, yes. But not scary. Skarsgard is excellent as Pennywise, exuding such charm yet such an eery creepiness too, and his scenes are amongst the film's best. But he does feel underused; he'll show up every so often to remind us he is the antagonistic presence of the film before disappearing again for a while. You can't help but want more of him.
The heart of IT, however, is The Losers Club and they are excellent; the group exude charm and there is such palpable chemistry between them all. Whilst everyone brings a strong performance to the table, it's Lieberher and Sophia Lillis as Beverly that steal the show; the former brings yet another emotionally charged performance to the table - following an impressive debut in last year's Midnight Special - and Lillis is destined to be a star. For such a young actress, she impresses a lot; her role demands a lot from her and Lillis pulls it all off so gracefully and with such aplomb. What's so great about The Losers Club, though, is they actually feel like genuine kids; the dialogue, their interaction, their fear: it's all real. They represent that innocuity and naivety of childhood that we all so loved and cherished when we were that age and it's their remarkable, grounded friendship and heart that is so beautiful to watch. We care for these characters and their friendship and whilst this film is far from perfect, the idea of reuniting with them in a sequel - set 27 years later - makes the prospect of a follow-up all the more exciting and a journey worth taking.
IT is flawed. It's by no means scary and, tonally, this a film that feels inconsistent and convoluted at times. However, Andy Muschietti directs this story with such slick precision and craft that it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Visually, it's fine - the film is often dark and falls into that bracket of typical horror aesthetic, but it works. Skarsgard excels as Pennywise and The Losers Club are great and the film adapts King's material well but there are still elements of the story that feel very rushed and that the screenplay dismisses too quickly - largely revolving around the antagonistic bully. It's formulaic and predictable but it executes the material competently enough to remain a solid and entertaining film nonetheless. I'm certainly excited for Chapter Two.
Andy Muschietti orchestrates chills with sharp precision but IT lacks the genuine scares to be anything more than just an enjoyable affair.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.