‘IT’ lives up to the hype of modern horror film

Erik Jimenez/Contributing Writer

In my eyes, “IT” is far and away the best novel horror novelist Stephen King has ever written. In a career comprised of other novels including the likes of “Carrie,” “Christine,” and “The Shining,” not to mention the numerous great short stories he has written, that is saying a lot. While a lot of his works have managed to get a faithful visual adaptation to either the big or small screen, “IT” was one of the few who never got the best treatment.

Its only true representation was a mini-series airing in 1990. While not terrible and clearly having standout moments, the mini-series just wasn’t able to capture the pure horror of the novel due to a low budget, a three-hour running time used to tell the whole story (a story over 1,100 pages long), and obvious ABC network restrictions on violence and inappropriate scenes.

The only genuine great thing about it was a career-defining performance made by Tim Curry as the titular villain. His rendition was not only memorable, but it adequately made a whole generation scared of clowns.

Thankfully, with the release of the new film version by Andy Muschietti of “Mama” fame, “IT” has gotten a film that, while not entirely faithful to the novel and is more of an interpretation rather than adaptation, feels more closely to the spirit and tone of the book than the mini-series and can easily rank among the best of King’s film adaptations.

Set in the small town of Derry, Maine during the summer of 1989, a group of young teenagers are being terrorized by an evil clown known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). They soon learn that the town has apparently been cursed for decades, and that the clown is actually a form of an evil force that returns every 27 years to feed off the fear of the town’s children. The group, dis-affectionately calling themselves the Loser’s Club, struggle to come to terms with their encounters with the clown, undecided if they are nightmares or real events. Soon they learn that the only way to defeat It is to conquer their fears and band together.

The children’s acting is some of the best I’ve seen in a major movie and all of the actors play to their characters strengths and weaknesses. Jaeden Lieberher pulls off a strong leader in Stuttering, Bill Den Brough. He captures the type of leadership a middle schooler would at the head of a group of close friends, all the while struggling with a terrible case of stuttering and trying to get over the death of his younger brother, Georgie, at the hands of IT.

Jeremy Ray Taylor is lovable as Ben Hanscom, the overweight new kid at school who loves to read and research on the town’s history. He also has a crush on resident poor girl Beverly Marsh, played by Sophia Lillis. She is a sympathetic tomboy who has issues with her dad that go beyond protective and straight into pedophilic.

Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard plays the bespectacled joker of the group, Richie. He’s as funny as that class clown you remember from elementary that did it to act tougher than they were. Jack Dylan Grazer is sweet as Hypochondriac Eddie who’s always worried about getting sick due to his overprotective mother.

Wyatt Oleff and Chosen Jacobs are fine as Jewish Mysophobe Stan and African American orphan Mike, respectively, but unfortunately the film doesn’t seem to give them as much to do as the other kids. Mike doesn’t even join the Loser’s club until halfway through the film.

The star of the film is far and away Bill Skarsgard as the titular villain. He does to Pennywise what Heath Ledger did to the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” He takes out any comedy the character had and strictly goes for the scares. Whereas Tim Curry played it as simply an evil clown, Skarsgard goes for something that feels like something evil wearing a clown suit. This is helped by the visual effects and makeup which are top notch and highlights of the film that give us some of the creepiest images seen on a big screen for a long time.

The film is already a phenomenon and is well worth the hype. I can’t wait to see Muschietti and Skarsgard return for the sequel. I am also curious to see how they handle the adult portions of the book in the next one. It is easily the best horror film of the year and the sequel is now on my most anticipated films of the next few years.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 4.

Screen Skeptic is a column by Erik Jimenez. Erik contributes reviews on the latest movie releases. The views and opinions expressed in Screen Skeptic do not reflect that of  FIU Student Media’s editorial board. 

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