It’s tough enough to adapt an author’s seminal work for the big screen; perhaps even harder for a filmmaker to follow with his own version of an already beloved adaptation of that same literary masterpiece.
Apparently director Andres Muschietti wasn’t scared. But he darned sure knows how to be scary.
Muschetti’s brand new take on Stephen King’s IT fills the clown-sized shoes of its 1990 TV miniseries with ease, threatening to burst the very big top as the new standard by which all other King-adaptations will be judged by. IT is smart, funny, captivating and oh so very, very scary. It’s not just a fantastic horror movie (superior to ninety percent of the genre’s offerings over the past decade), but a great film. And much like its original source material, IT deserves to be revered as a modern-day classic.
Weighing in at a hefty two hours and fifteen minutes, IT never lulls. The opening titles have barely rolled when the creep factor creeps in; the first gasp-inducing moment follows mere moments later…and the thrills and chills just keep coming, like a terrifying high-wire act that you watch with one hand over your eyes.
But don’t dare miss a bit of IT. Even with the considerable screen time given the monstrous villain, Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard, the brilliant heir to Tim Curry’s 1990 version), the real scares—and the real showmanship—is found in the brilliant backstories of the ragamuffin protagonists and the secrets locked behind the closed doors of King’s oft-used odd-town, Derry, Maine.
This time, we learn of yet another of Derry’s sinister subplots: children disappear. Like, all the time. In fact, they disappear at six times the national average for missing kids. And though the residents mourn these horrifying losses, nobody seems to want to find out why.
Not until young Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) disappears down a storm drain and his older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) decides to get to the bottom of the mystery. Bill enlists the aid of his small circle of friends—a rambling troupe of self-deprecating teens who gladly accept their peer-given moniker of “The Losers Club.” It’s a snub that’s more true than any of the group’s detractors realize. That’s because each one of the Losers has lost some type of familial tie—most often, the parent/child relationship.
Yes, the poor Losers have endured—continue to endure—more horror than the child-nabbing-Pennywise can inflict. Sure, he’s a centuries-old demon who can manifest as their deepest fears, but the Losers have been living in their nightmares, whether waking or dreaming, for the entirety of their short lives. Disappointment, paranoia, tragic death, emotional and sexual abuse—all have rent the Losers’ lives asunder. Yet still they persevere, staring down the personification of the evil that seems to big, too close to home, to overcome. Still they fight, realizing that together, they are stronger than the sum of their individual tragedies.
It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of personal pitfalls, and the strength that comes with the admission that we don’t have it all together, despite our desperate desire to have others believe that we do. Too often we sit inside the cubicle—or at the end of the pew—afraid to drop our guard. We worry about what everyone else would say if our inner demons were ever exposed. Instead of seeking help, we choose to do battle on our own and end up busted up, beaten down and beholden to the dark desires of the villains who perpetually remind us of the worst of ourselves. It is only when we share our struggles with one another—and with Christ—that we stand a chance to bury whatever IT is that has tortured us for so long.
It’s not easy to expose our demons. In fact, it’s pretty darned scary. But there’s a whole world of frightened people out there, a veritable three-ring circus of pain, shame and regret. Luckily, there’s a Ringmaster who can juggle all the madness and turn the worst episodes of our lives into the Greatest Show on Earth. His name is Jesus and he’s not scared. He’s waiting to make a fool out of your Pennywise.
Be astonished. Be astounded. Be amazed.
Be set free.
Bring out the clowns.
Special features include “Pennywise Lives,” a look at how Bill Skarsgard prepared to play the role of Pennywise; “The Losers Club,” how the teenagers bonded together on the set and off; “Author of Fear,” how Stephen King’s original premise – and its villain – came into existence; and deleted scenes.