By Mikhail Lecaros
Hitting cinemas this week, “It” isn’t a remake of the classic 1990 miniseries that taught a generation to fear clowns (and/or Tim Curry)–it’s a fresh take on the original Stephen King novel of the same name. So how does 2017’s version stack up in a landscape cluttered with new horror franchises?
IT HAS STEPHEN KING’S APPROVAL
As anyone familiar with bestselling author Stephen King’s hatred of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining well knows (despite it being a classic, it takes a number of departures from King’s text), he isn’t the biggest fan of many of the films that have been made out of his bestselling novels.
Which made it all the more surprising when this was posted back in March:
For anyone quick to point out that it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, King himself took to Twitter four days later to put an end to that argument:
Andy Muschietti’s remake of IT (actually it’s Part 1–The Losers’ Club) succeeds beyond my expectations. Relax. Wait. And enjoy.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 7, 2017
The film opens in 1988, in King’s oft-used fictional town of Derry, Maine, as a boy named Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) puts the finishing touches on a paper boat for his little brother, Georgie. Soon after, Georgie disappears under mysterious circumstances, instilling a deep sense of guilt in Bill.
The setting then shifts to a year later; it is the summer of 1989, and Bill is with his friends in the so-called Losers Club. With the school semester drawing to a close, Bill decides to enact his plan to venture into the sewers and find his brother, despite the protests of fellow Loser Richie (Finn Wolfhard, Stranger Things’ Mike!).
Little do the Losers know, they will soon find themselves face to face with the real horror that lies beneath their streets.
Speaking of the evil clown who has dominated the film’s marketing, Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Bonde) plays a very different sort of demon from that of Tim Curry’s iconic portrayal. Where Curry’s inherent creepiness would occasionally give way to flashes of animalistic rage for emphasis, Skarsgard’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown is a more consistently energetic haunter of children. At any rate, if you weren’t scared of clowns before, prepare to be messed up by It.
When it comes to the hero kids, their characterizations are similar to those of Netflix’s Stranger Things. But where Stranger Things was a loving pastiche of 80s genre films, It has more in common, thematically, with another King story, The Body. Much like It, The Body (and its classic film adaptation, Stand By Me) also features a group of misfits in a nostalgia-based coming-of-age tale.