Stephen King is one of modern American literature’s most adept writers who gets prolific and at times rather mediocre adaptations of his most seminal works. More times than not, King’s works are best adapted to the long form of television. Think Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and the original miniseries event of IT directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. IT may just be the finest cinematic achievement sanctioned by King himself.
The film covers the first half, a group of affable self-proclaimed losers band together after the leader’s younger brother, Georgie goes missing along with a handful of other children from the small town. Once they discover that Pennywise the Clown is behind the murders, they band together to take him down.
What works, and very well, in the film are the young actors assembled. They all give natural performances woven with organic chemistry that is a lot of fun to watch. Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography is nostalgic and seminal to what most think they remember of the 1980s. The small town look and feel, the intimate relationships, and childhood comradery make the scenes with Pennywise that much more frightening.
Bill Skarsgard’s take on Pennywise is a tall order. Tim Curry will forever be synonymous with It, and the film knows that. They take a more intense and violent approach with It; notably helped by the fine use of CGI and special effects. Skarsgard gives a complex performance. Often times he’s very reserved, doing most of his performance without dialogue but with such a force he fills the frame and commands the scene.
The film moves quickly through it’s taut and precise narrative, clocking in a little over two hours and fifteen minutes. There might be so small clunks along the way, overlooked character development regarding some characters, the rock throwing war was a bit hooky, yet the film remains a powerhouse achievement that had a lot riding on it. IT delivers with a bang, the horror icon of Pennywise is given his blockbuster moment in the sun. IT Chapter 2 can’t get here soon enough.
Review by Frank Mengarelli