WHAT’S THE DEAL: Stephen King‘s epic 1986 novel finally gets the big-screen treatment with a brand-new Pennywise the Clown terrorizing the children of Derry, Maine.
WHY SEE IT: Fans of King’s IT have no doubt watched the two-part 1990 miniseries version of the story that features a now-iconic turn by Tim Curry as Pennywise. While in my mind it would be an impossible feat to one-up Curry, the new version of Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgard, has the advantage of an R-rated cinematic landscape and modern-day effects to unleash his full potential and scare the living shit out of you. And he does. In spades. While I was not initially a fan of his makeup and costume, I was more than thrilled by what MAMA director Andy Muschietti delivered in terms of haunted-house thrills and chills. This is a dark, creepy film with amazing production design and effects that takes its time to craft a proper feeling of dread for the film’s well-cast kids (Sophia Lillis is a standout as Beverly Marsh), who display good chemistry and inhabit the late ’80s for the most part as if they were in the ’50s. And those eyes. Watch those Pennywise eyes closely in this film…
THE FLICK FLACK: Those who know King’s story are aware that it is told in two different time periods — the childhood and adulthood, 27 years later, of the “Losers Club.” While I admire the fact that the filmmakers chose to focus only on the childhood portion and formation of The Losers Club to tell a clean story (setting up a most definitely anticipated sequel), I feel that the story here loses a considerable amount of its impact by removing the adult elements of nostalgia, reunion, facing childhood fears, and the complications of age on longstanding friendships. My other issue with the film, while not considerable, is the turned-to-11 sound design. There were a few too many cheap jump scares that relied on a loud sound-effects sting to deliver audience frights. A more sparse audio at times would have served the film better where the scares are concerned; the “what if” is better served when the soundscape is not beating you over the head with “what is.”
NOTABLE NOTES: The frilly clown costume that Pennywise sports was inspired by a variety of previous eras — the Renaissance, Medieval, Elizabethan, Victorian — to imply his immortality and the number of past time periods that he’s (or It’s) made the rounds in. Meanwhile, in Lilitz, PA, a prankster has been tying red balloons to sewer grates and the police have become quite annoyed with the incessant calls by locals who are wigged out by the possibility that a devious clown may be lurking about. Good times.
MORE INFO: www.warnerbros.com/it
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