It seems as though we the audience are very much in the throes of 1980s nostalgia – and Muschietti is only too happy to oblige. It goes without saying then, that the casting of the youngsters is of high importance for this film to achieve its target, and we are delicately introduced to the members of the Loser’s Club in order to actually care for them in their coming ordeals. Each character is introduced, and we are given a peak at the dysfunctional elements of their private lives – which no doubt is a major factor when a certain children’s entertainer enters the fold. Their first individual encounters with IT are often nightmarish visions and you get a good sense of the basis of their fears, for those already familiar with the narrative. This is not just the run-of-the-mill formula of smashing together all of the sexually and romantically awkward teenage character templates and stirring for the duration of the film. The Loser’s Club really does seem to be made up of three-dimensional characters that are being forced to grow up slightly before their time. The young cast give a very good performance as they convincingly play such characters as the grieving brother, the sexually-abused daughter, the hypochondriac son, the bullied ‘fat kid’, etc. We really do care about each and every last one of them.
So, moving on to the main attraction for some – the clown. As stated at the start, I had my doubts about the new Pennywise ever since seeing the stills, and the opening scene with the notorious paper boat incident would be very much make-or-break for me. Skarsgård’s clown is very different from Curry’s, and it is hard to imagine the former giving a larger than life performance that would top the latter’s. I was begging to hear Curry’s gravelly Brooklyn accent rasping, “Hiya Georgie!” for the first time from within the storm drain. What we got was very different. I had mixed thoughts on this once that scene had played out – thoughts that would go back and forth throughout the film. Pennywise does not get as much screen time as one would imagine – remember, this is about building up the Loser’s Club characters for what hell they will go through in the potential sequel (just as in the 90s’ 2-parter) – but what we do witness when he is on-screen, is a mixture of completely unhinged vocal and acting performance, and some surprising CG set pieces. One can imagine that Wallace’s IT suffered a lot of creative financial constraints, which was not the case here, with the film reportedly on a $35,000,000 budget, so some of the tropes present in the previous screen version are elaborated on in this because they had the money to showcase King’s original vision.
As a film that most will consider to be a remake of a film made from a novel, there will be no shocks for the familiar viewer. Where this film excels is in its set pieces – we know that the SS Georgie will be washed down the drain, we know that the Loser’s club is made of awkward small-town adolescents, we know they are terrorised by the local high school bullies as well as haunted by events in their personal lives, and we know that they will be seeing quite a few floating red balloons in the next couple of hours or so. But, it’s the way these are served to us as the set pieces that will get the reaction from both seasoned IT fan and newcomer alike. Some of these will shock you, some will make you laugh, and others will leave you scratching your head. I will be honest, it’s nowhere near the perfect horror film - as comments on social media will have you believe – but it is interesting. However, my initial thoughts at the end of the film were to think back to the 90s IT and wonder if sometimes less is more.
In closing, with a successful marketing campaign and reportedly record-breaking performance for a horror film on its opening weekend at the box office, it would be surprising if Chapter 2 were not to materialise. It would be interesting to see the Loser’s Club 27 years older (and wiser?) ready to take on Pennywise one last time in modern day.
By Andreas Charalambous - 10th September 2017
After years of anticipation, IT has finally arrived (Did you see what I did there?).
No doubt drawing constant comparisons to Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 made-for-TV miniseries, Mama director Andy Muschietti’s vision of Stephen King’s novel by the same name is under much pressure before a single frame is projected onto our cinema screens. Ever since the first stills of the new Pennywise the Dancing Clown (played by Bill Skarsgård) were shared with the world what seems like an age ago, my initial reaction was one of being completely underwhelmed - questioning, “What in the name of Tim Curry is this!?”. The nightmarish, gravel-voiced, big blood red-haired clown that freaked out a generation, this was not.
Muschietti has done his best in keeping faithful to the original source material, but simultaneously putting his own mark on the film. One illustration of this is that he discards the original 1950s setting of the novel, and sets the action in 1989 – so brilliantly signposted by all the cool pop culture visual references scattered throughout the film. The result is a nostalgic coming-of-age trip back to such films of the 80s as The Goonies, King’s own Stand By Me, and E.T. The sight of Finn Wolfhard pedalling through the small-town setting of Derry – Maine with his small band of cyclist brothers, is very reminiscent of Stranger Things.