"IT" is directed by Andy Muschietti and it's based off of the 1986 Stephen King novel, as well as being a loose remake of the 1990 miniseries which was also based off of the famous King book. The basic plot is that a group of seven kids in the town of Derry, Maine are being terrorized by an entity that primarily takes the form of Pennywise the Clown. This group, known as "The Losers' Club", decides to face the supernatural being and along the way, encounter personal demons of their own.
Having read the original "IT" novel, I was always interested in the idea of this movie. After the first trailer, I wasn't 100% sold on this film, but after that the marketing seemed to improve heavily and I got more and more hyped for this movie. Plus, it's also worth mentioning that I recently re-watched the 1990 miniseries with Tim Curry. As far as my thoughts on that go, I tolerate the first half which focuses mostly on the group as kids, but the second half with them as adults is just plain bad. The miniseries as a whole is cheesy, dated, and just all around mediocre, so my expectations for this loose remake were for it to just be better than the miniseries, as well as being a halfway decent adaptation of the novel.
With the young cast playing the members of the Losers' club, all of them were completely solid in their roles. The standout for me and a lot of other people is Finn Wolfhard, coming fresh off of "Stranger Things". He stood out mostly because he's playing a vastly different character than Mike Wheeler as he portrays the character of Richie exactly how I pictured him in the book: A foul-mouthed, crude jokester who never knows when to shut up. Honestly, I can say for every child performance that they all did a great job of embodying the characters from the novel. From Beverly and her problems at home, to Stuttering Bill as the de-facto leader of the club, I was really impressed with all of the young performances.
But of course, a review for this movie can't be done without mentioning Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, or more simply, IT. I've said before that I'm not afraid of clowns in the slightest, but this version of Pennywise made me seriously reconsider that. As a crazy murderous clown, he may not have as much screen time as some may expect, but his presence is felt throughout the entire film and that's because of how eerie this performance is. If I can compare it to Tim Curry's performance, I'll say this much: Curry's Pennywise was certainly entertaining and added a lot of dark humor to an otherwise dull miniseries, but there were very few parts when I felt he was actually scary. With Skarsgard, though, there are plenty of moments when you will get legitimately creeped out by him. He's sold as an other-worldly entity who's meant to terrorize anyone who comes in his way and Skarsgard absolutely nails it.
In terms of judging this movie solely as a horror film, I don't really think it's fair to see it as just that. Sure, it has some horror elements, but it's also a good mix of horror and a coming of age story. When there's horror related stuff going on, though, it works really well. The scares are built up nicely and there's plenty of really intense scenes that genuinely had me gripping my seat in the theater. In fact, I'll say that there were more intense scenes than there were scenes that can be considered "scary". There's a very small part of me that wanted this movie to have just a few more scares that stuck with me after seeing it, but all things considered, I drove home after seeing it last night and I was creeped out by the slightest movement made on the way home. That might be because my neighborhood has some areas that are just inherently creepy to look at, but this movie still offered up some eerie moments
One of the things that this movie did really well was following through on the central theme of the novel, that of childhood trauma. In the book, the IT entity was essentially a metaphor for childhood trauma that's kept secret by someone, only to have it come back to haunt them in the future. For what this movie shows, there's plenty of disturbing moments that not only drive home the R-rating, but also the unfortunate reality of children dealing with things that no child should have to deal with. The real test of whether or not the novel's themes are kept intact is when Chapter 2 of this movie comes out with the Losers' Club as adults, but for now, I think there was good justice done to the more relatable elements that Stephen King wrote about.
As an adaptation, this movie displays just about everything it needed to in order to remain faithful to the book's themes, as well as just being a well made film in general. Of the stuff that's cut from the book, it's stuff that absolutely needed to be cut in my opinion. I won't go into too much detail, but there are some moments in the book that no film-maker would ever get away with showing on the big screen. If books got ratings like movies, it would get a solid NC-17, no questions asked. This movie did away with some of those moments, but it still stands as a remarkably faithful adaptation of King's novel.
All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with "IT". It's well acted, creepy, it does a good job of blending horror with the more light-hearted, adventurous tone you'd expect to see in a coming of age story, and it stays true to the ideas that King meant to convey in his 1986 novel. For adapting an over 1,100 page book, this movie did the best possible job it could've done and I think this is one of the stronger adaptations of a Stephen King work.
Rating: Full Price!