review by robyn kilroy
Growing up, a thing that was commonly dared among kids was watching Tommy Lee Wallace’s It based off the famous Stephen King novel. As a young child, this TV series terrified me and my friends, and even though it may seem dated these days, Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise, the child-eating clown, is still disturbing to me. Despite being terrified in as a child by this, I decided to revisit Pennywise and the city of Derry in Andres Muschietti’s new motion picture adaptation of It. This film tells the story of a group of odd ball kids who are being terrorised by Pennywise the clown (played this time by Bill Skarsgård) and their efforts to take it down. With jump scares and nightmarish imagery effects, this film will have its viewers hiding behind their hands in the cinema.
From watching the trailer for this movie adaptation for the first time, Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise scared the hell out of me. My only concern before seeing this film was that this version of Pennywise would be too sinister. I was apprehensive that the high-camp of Curry’s Pennywise, which had served to magnify the horror, would be lost. However, Skarsgård’s Pennywise managed to retain this key element of the character.
This reassurance of camp is present from the earliest moments, the infamous roadside drain scene. From the interaction we see between Pennywise and Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), we see the silly side of the clown that, when paired with the sinister, makes him truly terrifying. What makes this new and improved Pennywise scarier is the addition of modern CGI, allowing Muschietti to create terrifying scenes in which Pennywise morphs into horrifying sights. Even though I think they relied a little too much on CGI for Pennywise, it was very well done and definitely added to the horror of the character.
An element of this film that I was excited to see was the group of child actors cast to play the group of young misfits (nicknamed in this film as the “loser club”). The release of the Dufner brothers Netflix hit Stranger Things has brought back the group adventurous misfit kids theme back into TV and cinema, seen in much beloved films like The Goonies and E.T. There’s no doubt that the success of Stranger Things inspired the remaking of It, with Finn Wolfhard (who played Mike in Stranger Things) cast as Richie, the jokester character of the group. Other kids in this film include Jaeden Lieberher, who excellently plays Bill, the leader of the group who after the disappearance of his brother Georgie, motivates the group to find the reason for his vanishing. However, the stand out performance for me was Sophia Lillis. Lillis plays Beverly Marsh, the only girl of the group. The film draws depth and focus into the emotional development of Beverly’s character. Through Beverly, It, explores important themes of slut shaming and parental abuse. Sophia Lillis succeeds in creating a well-developed character, one who is vulnerable but also brave.
To remake a cult classic horror film that is loved (and feared) by many, is a risky move. It can be hard to recreate to magic that made the original so popular. But die hard It fans need not fear, in my opinion this film hit the mark. With an excellent cast, a terrifying clown, a certain level of respect for the classic scenes, and even leaving room for a sequel (that’s right!), this film succeeds in creating a very decent remake that will appeal to older fans as well as those who are new to this terrifying tale.