It’s the late 1980’s where Gremlins, New Kid on the Block and brick sized walkie-talkies occupy more households than children with the rise of disappearances around Derry, Maine. A group dubbed the losers club bond over cliff-diving, fighting off one-dimensional bullies and uncovering the mystery of kidnapper, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard).
Taking as much time as The Dark Tower to develop in limbo, this is the better of the two Stephen King adaptations this year. Not everyone’s read the book, but we’re all familiar with the 90’s mini-series starring the always eccentric, Tim Curry. While he wore his personality like his make-up he always made me laugh rather than cower in terror. This Pennywise is straight-up psychotic tenderizing the teens with their worst fears like fattening a turkey before Thanksgiving. The clown doesn’t even have to occupy the screen for the trauma to continue. The real world is just as haunting with cruel (if somewhat one-dimensional) bullies and over protective parents. For all the tired antics of the junior Grease club, the violence towards children is an authentic gamble that mostly pays off. Particularly when harm doesn’t originate from a stranger, but from a close relative with a hypnotically, creepy fixation the second you’re home. SPOILER ALERT! This is the first adaptation since the final Harry Potter book that had every right to be split in two. No more leap-frogging the pacing between the past and the present in a disjointed zigzag. Giving more development to the over-qualified kid actors as a group, particularly Beverly Marsh. And never having a dull moment between the unpredictable supernatural forces and the cold, harsh reality of everyday life. Though the effects scream, I’m animated almost every time near the climax despite some very inventive imagery. For all the over-caffeinated movements and multiple layers of shark teeth, nothing’s more convincing than the eyes with a mind of their own: illuminating and turning inside out as if they were trying to break free from a straight jacket. Everything else feels straight out the early 2000’s technology defusing tension when certain circus landmarks are revealed.
It, as of now, is half the definitive version that’s sure to infect you with coulrophobia (fear of clowns) by the time chapter two come around. Supernatural forces are expected in horror, old and new, but when it takes time to develop characters who could each have their own prequel, it hit closer to home than any other horror adaptation in a while. Say what you will when comparing it to Stranger Things, but Matthew McConaughey is always around the corner should you prefer an unintentional comedy for the whole family.
Pros: kid actors, Bill Skarsgard, focused pacing, supernatural terror, high school hardships
Cons: Choppy CGI, Stephen King bullies