Stephen King’s IT tells the gory and frightening tale of preadolescents fighting back against a boogeyman that only they can see.
If you ask most Stephen King fans how they first got acquainted with his writing, they would usually say they read IT when they were kids.
There’s a very good reason for that. IT has all the hallmarks of young adult fiction. Except it’s bloodier and downright terrifying.
That’s right, I read the novel in my early teens and the book scared the hell out of me. IT had me avoiding storm drains for a long time. I mean, just look at those eyes!
But I also felt a sense of camaraderie with the kids. Those who got picked on by bullies, ignored by adults and had the courage to take on the clown.
IT has already had the adapted screenplay treatment via a mini-series back in 1990. The latest Hollywood craze seems to be reboots, but unlike the 1990 adaptation, 2017’s version of IT concentrates on exploits of the children, with rumours of a sequel having the adult versions tackling Pennywise.
The Plot of IT
We know “Stuttering” Bill Denborough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) was murdered. The murder was by a crazed clown creature called Pennywise (a truly terrifying performance by Bill Skarsgard ). He takes the body and disappears into the sewers.
It is explained that the town of Derry has had quite a few children that have gone missing. Bill has become obsessed with finding the body of his brother and the other missing kids.
Bill enlists his friends to search for the bodies. The group consists of hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrack (Jack Dylan Grazer), smartmouth Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) and Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff). The movie is worth viewing again just for Tozier’s one liners and his hilarious interaction with the other characters.
Bill and his friends are plagued by a group of bullies. These bullies are headed by Henry Bowers (a deliciously evil performance by Nicholas Hamilton).
The group is soon joined by Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) and Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor). They have also had run ins with Henry Bowers and faced the killer clown and survived.
The series of encounters by the kids with the clown is what sets up the movie in terms of fear factor.
The film was successful in forcing me into my usual “brace” position in terms of viewing good horrors/thrillers. This involves leaning back, tensing up, putting arms on the arm rests and preparing to dodge and weave. All while muttering “Watch your back!” to the character on screen.
After the addition of Ben, who becomes the group’s resident expert of Derry history the group of friends (or the “Losers’ Club” as Bill likes to call them) start sharing stories. These stories are about a killer clown they’ve encountered throughout town; a clown that feeds on their fears and that only kids can see.
The group starts piecing the details together and is urged by Bill to face their fears and organise a hunt for the clown. Because of this, Pennywise starts haunting them as a group and individually in an effort to scare them off their mission.
I loved the subplots such as the family interactions. For those that haven’t read the novel, the family dynamics you see are classic Stephen King character development. I’m glad the adapted screenplay kept them, along with Ben’s crush on Beverly and the “Apocalyptic Rock Fight”. I also liked was the use of music, first to relax the viewer before scaring the hell out of them.
Perhaps it’s indicative of how King struggles with the endings of his books. The ending of the movie is a little anticlimactic and doesn’t really define or explain this clown creature that’s been haunting this town for a long time. There’s also a lack of closure in terms of the fatal sequences leading to the confrontation between the Losers’ Club and Pennywise.
The Verdict of IT – the movie
After the disappointment of The Dark Tower, this adaptation is infinitely better in terms of plot and character development.
Let’s face it, with such a rich source material, the adapted screenplay writers (Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman) didn’t need to change much. I can forgive them for dropping a particular plot point. An example being where the kids had to “recalibrate” after their confrontation with Pennywise. A plot point, I reckon King threw in there just to see if people were paying attention.
IT is scary, IT is worth a trip to the cinemas and IT would be a welcome addition to the home movie library.