By Tyler Mulholland-Gain
The Halloween season is creeping up on the calendar, and there is no better way to kick it off than with the newly released Stephen King’s IT, an adaption of the book with the same name. In an age of Hollywood remakes and cash grabs, at first glance, this new version of King’s classic seemed doomed to fall into that soulless category of retreading old ground. However, the greatest surprise this movie offers is that it could not be any more different than the original film. While much has changed, there are still strokes of familiarity in IT that old fans would recognize—in fact the new film opens with the all-too-familiar scene of a young boy chasing his paper boat towards a storm drain.
The movie still deals with the same characters and themes as the original film as well, but this iteration is a stinking, horror ridden, breath of gloriously terrifying fresh air for lovers of the genre and the book. Existing as a more faithful adaption, IT takes a much darker route than its predecessor, embracing some of the twisted horrors that a parasitic, fear-feeding clown thrives on.
Much of where this movie shines is through the directing and acting. Divergent series actor Bill Skarsgård presents a ferocious and bloodthirsty Pennywise, who terrorizes the cast and audiences alike with his inhuman mannerisms and his demonic stare. The child actors give their best takes on youth in the 1980s, and each stands out on their own with strengths, weaknesses, and evenly distributed character development. The emphasis on character development proves to be the most effective dynamic of this film, as Pennywise’s attacks are driven by what each character personally fears. As such, we get to know these children in deep and meaningful ways— exploration that rarely exists in most modern horror flicks. Among the talented cast is Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things, a popular Netflix series that was influenced by King’s older works. Consequently, much of this movie takes inspiration from the likes of Stranger Things, appealing to the nostalgic 1980s aesthetic instead of the book’s 1950s setting.
The work of Mama director Andrés Muschietti in this film is nothing short of brilliant. Every scene carries meaning, and every scare has thought and energy committed to it. The film even goes as far as incorporating practical effects, adding a distinct veil of realism to keep audiences awake in fear after viewing the film.
IT maintains a dark tone while equally adding humor and relief to balance tragedy with comedy—masterfully represented through 80s nostalgia and the powerhouse cast. Much of the horror does not rely on the tried-and-tired jump scare technique, and Muschietti makes a visible effort to create atmosphere, tension, and ultimately a must-see horror movie that is a modern classic in every sense.
Final Score: A-