Before we get into this, let’s get one thing straight: IT is not a remake of the 1990 miniseries. This movie is its own unique, independent adaption of Stephen Kings 1986 novel, and a different beast altogether. If you’re a fan of either, or both, rest easy. Andy Muschietti’s IT is good. Very good, in fact.
We’re all at least vaguely aware of the premise by now; a crazy clown creeps around the sewers of the small town of Derry, Maine, scaring kids and snatching them up. But if that’s all you know, or all you think you know, you really don’t know IT at all.
IT Takes Us Back To Childhood Traumas
The essence of what “it” is exactly is hard to explain without taking you back to your own childhood and reminding you of the things that used to scare you as a kid. This is something the movie does exceptionally well, particularly during a scene in the opening segment where little Georgie Denbrough is sent to grab wax from the basement. As Georgie stands at the top of the stairs, peering anxiously down into the darkness below, mustering up some courage to face the nameless/faceless monsters that most certainly lurk in the shadows, the experience feels immediately familiar. Who among us hasn’t done the same thing, psyching ourselves up before running downstairs to grab our laundry or a screwdriver from dad’s toolbox? While nothing gets Georgie this time, his fate shortly after proves that, in the world of “It,” the imagined monsters can be real.
For children, the line between real dangers and imagined ones is usually blurred. Muschietti successfully ties the two together, highlighting the everyday monsters kids could be forced to face: relentless school bullies, slanderous rumors, abusive parents, etc. Our main clique, the self-named "Losers," are left to face these all alone, with only each other to depend on. The adults in this film, almost without exception, are useless, in a way that is incredibly frustrating, yet not unrealistic. Kids always feel like it’s them against the world anyway, an underdeveloped mentality in reality, maybe, but a very real truth in this film. Our Losers need each other to face their fears, and if that’s not a beautiful message on the power of friendship, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of the Losers, the same casting gods who had a hand in Stranger Things (the comparisons are inevitable here) must have bestowed the same blessings upon this production, because not only is the core group of young actors a delight, but it can also act. Each contributes something to the story, particularly Jaeden Lieberher, who brings a sort of quiet heroism to the role of “Stuttering Bill” Denbrough. Sophia Lillas as Beverly Marsh is another standout (and a dead ringer for Amy Adams or Jessica Chastain—note to whoever’s casting the sequel). She grapples the edge of grit and toughness, teetering over into fragility just when it counts. Finn Wolfhard’s “Trashmouth” Richie Tozier is a departure from Stranger Things Mike Wheeler, for sure, serving as the movie’s comic relief and providing a quick witticism every chance he gets.
Pennywise Provides IT's Best Scares
But let’s be honest, if there’s one thing anyone knows about IT, it’s not the kids. It’s the clown. So let's get into it. I am happy to report that Bill Skarsgård’s take on Pennywise the Dancing Clown is just about perfect, and completely different from Tim Curry’s performance in the miniseries. This is good, because while perhaps terrifying when we were 10 year olds hiding behind our pillows, Curry’s Pennywise doesn’t stand the test of time, coming across more like the type of clown your mom would hire for you birthday party then immediately regret because he smells like three-day old bourbon. Creepy, sure, but not particularly scary. Skarsgård’s clown is both and then some, with a depth and complexity that was lacking to the character in the miniseries. This Pennywise is otherworldly, childlike, and animalistic all at once, and pretty damn scary. The movie as a whole, in my opinion, isn’t the type that will leave you having nightmares, relying on heavy visuals, jump scares, and the occasional gore, but Pennywise definitely gets the most reactions. I would argue that the character works best when the CGI takes a break and lets Skarsgård’s intensely emotive eyes and super long limbs do all the work. It’s no coincidence that arguably the best moment in the film, the iconic scene between Georgie and Pennywise at the sewer drain, also happens to be the one where Pennywise has his most lines.
The film ends, smartly, with a sense of closure, while still hinting that the story isn’t over. By the time the lights come up, you’re satisfied just enough, but not 100%, which should make the wait for the sequel all the more manageable.