Review: It

Seven young outcasts in Derry, Maine, are about to face their worst nightmare — an ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town’s children. Banding together over the course of one horrifying summer, the friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise.

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, It had previously been told through a miniseries that had Tim Curry starring as the title role but this time around the popular book has been adapted into a feature length film. The feature film at Warner Bros had been in limbo for awhile as filmmakers parted ways with the project, most notably Cary Fukunaga who clashed with the studio and the films budget cuts. His departure resulted in talented young actor Will Poulter dropping out of the role of Pennywise. Production was expected to begin with cast and crew being hired but the sudden news left the film up in the air.

Director Andy Muschietti, known for his film Mama, was hired to direct with WB still anticipating a 2017 release. The new hire resulted in recasts which included newcomer Bill Skarsgard suiting up to play Pennywise. A handful of the kids who were previously cast managed to win back their jobs while others took advantage of the opportunity. The film received some backlash when the first promo stills of Pennywise dropped online, with the design of Pennywise being mocked by many. There was a time when it looked like It was doomed but Muschietti and co have scored big here with a studio horror film that dares to take risks and stretch the boundaries.

Viewers will go into It looking for some fun scares but leave feeling fulfilled thanks to the performances of the Losers’ Club. Similar to King’s Stand by Me, the film features an ensemble of teen actors who form a bond with one another as they travel down a rabbit hole of mystery. Despite the circumstances the chemistry between them is impeccable as they throw verbal jabs back and forth. They’re so natural with each other that it seems like they’ve been friends for years. All of the kids have fears that haunt them and thanks to the script we’re able to follow along as they try to overcome them throughout the film.

It manages to be more than just a horror as it provides the viewer with moments of drama, comedy, and heart. Standouts for the Losers’ Club include Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer who provide the majority of the laughs. The one liners are quick and witty while managing to not get tiresome after awhile.

Jaeden Lieberher plays Bill, the leader of the pack who is still haunted by his little brother that has been missing for over a year. Lieberher continues to pad to his impressive resume of films over the past few years. Newcomer Sophia Lillis plays Beverly, the strong willed teen who is tormented by her home life but finds solace when she befriends the Losers’ Club. Even in times when she isn’t delivering any dialogue, she manages to emote so well that we’re able to feel her suffering. Expect to see a lot more of her in the future as her performance here puts her on the map.

After the internet dismissed the first stills from the set, many started to doubt the casting of Bill Skarsgard as his body of work prior to this was limited. Coming from a family where your dad is Stellan Skarsgard and your brother is Alexander Skarsgard, Bill had some big shoes to fill here. Thankfully he manages to deliver a performance that will be remembered for years to come in the horror community.

Playing the famous It/Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Skarsgard’s large stature is menacing as he stalks the children before playing mind games with them. It isn’t until around the midway point of the film where we finally get to see the Pennywise that people know from the book and miniseries, the playful-mischievous clown that trolls his prey by haunting them with their own fears. As the film concludes it leaves you wanting more Pennywise though the argument could be made that less is more in this case. Regardless Bill Skarsgard gives a tour de force performance which only amplifies the expectations for the sequel.

Unlike most horror films made through a large studio, It manages to tell a thought provoking story with compelling characters. The young cast is so impressive that often it undermines the character of Pennywise despite being in a decent chunk of the film. It isn’t until the midway mark when It gets to go haywire and becomes a legitimate threat. The scares in this film don’t have the impact that they’re hoping for as most of them are conventional and expected though the filmmaking from Muschietti is superb as he perfectly portrays the grungy Derry, Maine that is full of bad karma.

It manages to exceed expectations thanks to a well rounded cast of teens and Bill Skarsgard’s terrifying turn as Pennywise.

Rating: 8/10

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