Holy crap, I loved this movie.
Over the last couple of years indie horror has been whupping butt at the multiplexes. Everything from The Babadook to It Follows to Get Out to The Witch has been subtly creeping out audiences with tiny budgets and high concepts. An unabashed populist horror film, IT comes along with (slightly) bigger budget, almost exclusive child cast, cool effects sequences and an epic run time and fucking OWNS.
Based both on one of Stephen King’s finest novels, not to mention the slightly creaky 90’s TV miniseries with it’s iconic Tim Curry performance, this brand, shiny new IT is an endlessly entertaining beast. Simple yet effective character work linked by a string of nearly unbroken yet imagintive scare scenes that are hosted by a central villainous performance. I could just as easily be describing A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3, surely the finest of the Elm Street sequels (I can assure you this is a GOOD thing), which also tapped into a cool populist vibe. An argument could be made that true spine chilling scares have been sacrificed in favour of simpler jumps scares but oddly for a modern horror flick, the scares aren’t the crowning achievement of this movie. No, that nod goes to the impressive work from the child cast which anchor the movie. Obviously some roles are bigger than others (more Mike Hanlon and Stanley Uris would’ve been nice) but the quintet of Bill, Beverly, Richie, Ben and Eddie are magnificent (extra credit to the double act of Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Green as Richie and Eddie) and make you really give a shit about their plight.
Their plight, of course, is the shape-shifting, child-scoffing, sewer-dwelling creature whose favourite form is that of Pennywise The Dancing Clown. With his cracked makeup, floppy frills and a drop of drool permanently handing from his drooping bottom lip Bill Skarsgård’s performance comes out swinging and scores knockout after knockout. Be it dancing a crazed jig while fixing a victim with unbreaking death-glare or unfurling himself all taffy-jointed from the inside of a cramped refrigerator, Skarsgård delivers role that instantly enters the horror hall of fame. He really could be the Freddy Krueger for a whole new generation and you really can’t get enough of him. The feeling that a completely brand new (if technically rebooted) horror icon is being birthed practically before your very eyes is frickin’ priceless. Thankfully the film doesn’t overplay it’s face painted secret weapon, director Andrés Muschietti wisely leaving the heavy lifting to the kids playing into the whole Goonies, Lost Boys, Stranger Things vibe that’s so big right now.
Problems? Nothing lasting. Trading in lasting horror for cheap jumps might piss off hard-core fans but when you have such super cool stuff going on (the genuinely creepy Woman In The Picture takes silver in the “what the fuck is THAT” stakes) then there’s no harm done.
My second cinema obsession of the year (Spider-Man: Homecoming being the first, another movie about being a kid in weird circumstances) this flick made me crazy happy and as a horror fan, a lover of horror icons, a Stephen King fan, and a lover of the original novel, IT’s I could ever ask for.