Stephen King’s It has previously been adapted as a memorable television miniseries, so this new version, helmed by Mama director Andy Muschietti, comes with a certain level of expectation. Personally I don’t find It quite the bone-chilling exercise in terror claimed by many, but the new film certainly works reasonably well.
For me, It (or at least this version) is more successful outside the horror elements when tapping into the Stranger Things zeitgeist. Updating the novel from the 1950s to the 1980s, this nostalgic, coming of age story is familiar King territory for anyone who has seen Stand by Me, not to mention kids-rule Amblin movies like The Goonies. That’s not to say it skimps on gruesome horror either, and at times the film borrows heavily from Poltergeist and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Now is as good a time as any to warn of strong bloody sequences, violence, bad language, and other disturbing content.
The plot covers the first half of King’s novel, whereby children in a small American town are terrorised, abducted and murdered by a demonic force that takes the form of Pennywise the Clown. This malevolent spiritual force has lurked in the town for decades, and a local group of bullied children (who collectively refer to themselves as “the Losers Club”) start to put together the pieces from history, discovering the truth and deciding to fight back.
The largely unknown cast all do pretty well, and Muschietti directs solidly, delivering a least a couple of decent scares. However, as I mentioned earlier I didn’t find it massively frightening overall, perhaps because clowns simply do not scare me. Far more disturbing are the appalling adults in the story, at best useless and at worst abusive (in one case sexually). The stand the children take against demonic evil is admirable, but I found myself far more interested in the afore-mentioned coming of age themes, as well as the character arc of one of the children dealing with grief.
All things considered, It is likely to please fans of both the novel and the miniseries. However, they’ll have to keep their fingers crossed for a sequel covering the second half of the novel, which will no doubt be dependent on box office.