★★★ out of ★★★★
Stephen King created an instant masterpiece in his epic 1986 novel It. The characters and evil clown, Pennywise, were so well-written it’s unexpected that a film can capture that magic.
This was proven by the admirable effort that was the 1990 miniseries. While the acting was good, the story dragged, the effects were cheesy and the TV restrictions meant it couldn’t capture the gore. Lucky for us, the 2017 adaptation takes the original story, makes it its own, and delivers a scary and fun film.
It/Pennywise as a character taps into something simple; scary clowns are scary. But he/she/it is something more complex and frightening. It manifests into the thing that scares you the most. It’s not even a clown, that’s just the shape it assumes until it’s ready to attack. It knows your psyche and exploits your weaknesses. Bill Skarsgard as the title character gives us a brilliant Pennywise who is both childlike and predatory at the same time.
Skarsgard is equally matched by a group of child actors who live up to their novel namesakes. Stuttering Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) leads a group of kids known as The Losers in facing “It.” He’s the heart of the film and the central character who deals with the most loss and hurt. Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) plays the overweight kid whose sensitivity and smarts are that of a person twice his age. Bev Marsh (Sophia Lillis) is the badass girl from the wrong side of the tracks who doesn’t care what you think of her. She deals with most problematic home life. Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) is a motormouthed smart alec who plays much of the film’s comic relief. Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) is the “everyman”, the character we can all relate to. And last, but definitely not least, is Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer, who is starring in the new CBS sitcom Me, Myself & I) is a hypochondriac with the second biggest personality in the film (second only to Pennywise).
The two strongest actors of the group are Grazer and Wolfhard. Wolfhard, who you may know from Netflix’s Stranger Things, at this point is already an established actor who’s perfectly cast for the role. He’s a lovable big mouth that’s reminiscent of that kid in class your teacher hates but secretly finds hilarious.
Grazer is currently relatively unknown but he steals every scene he’s in while bringing genuineness to his neurotic character.
While the movie is awesome it’s not without weakness. It’s frustrating how much they diminish the character of Mike Hanlon. In the novel, he’s basically the historian for all things in their town. In the film, he has few lines and he’s barely a part of the central group.
As the only person of color in the film, this is an issue. Also, the first kill in the movie almost completely ruins the film. Its pacing is off and it looks unrealistic. Thankfully, It redeems itself in scenes following the initial death.
The movie is already so well-received that there’s a sequel in the works. This time, our leads will be played by adults in their late 30’s or early 40’s. It’s assumed they will take on the evil clown once again for another showdown. If it’s half as entertaining as It 2017, we are in for a treat.
The Good: Entertaining, scary and unpredictable. The horror sequences are visually stunning and totally freaky. It lives up to the hype.
The Bad: Some fake looking effects can make suspending the disbelief a little bit more difficult. Also, there are some editing issues with Pennywise’s voice in post-production matching with what’s on screen.
Final Word: One of the best horror movies of the last decade, and possibly one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever.