It is the second live action adaptation of Stephen King’s horror, arriving twenty-seven years after the Tim Curry starring miniseries.
Set in the fictional town of Derry in the late ’80s, It follows a group of kids, known as the Losers’ club. From the outset, there’s a general feeling that this idyllic small town is not quite what it seems. Soon enough, they become invested in a mystery surrounding Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a paranormal entity that preys on the fears of children.
The joy in this film is not in the mystery or horror but in the excellence of the child cast. Using children as protagonists allows the audience to suspend their disbelief in a way that isn’t possible with adults as the focus. I often find horror difficult to buy into and this is usually due to the stupidity of the adult characters. With children, this isn’t a problem. Their naivety is charming and their enthusiasm and desire to do the right thing is refreshing. There’s a Goonies vibe going on which makes It an awful lot of fun, while still being quite terrifying.
The chemistry between the group is brilliant. The whole cast of children are truly excellent. They each bring something different to the table and they’re genuinely hilarious together. Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard is the source of much of the comedy. Jaeden Lieberher plays Bill, the leader of the Losers, who vows revenge on Pennywise after his little brother goes missing. Alongside Sophia Lillis as Bev, he carries the emotional weight of the film.
Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman have produced a screenplay which focusses on the characters rather than the ins and outs of Pennywise. As a result, there’s little exposition and this helps the film feel like it’s always moving forward. There’s no explicit explanation of exactly what Pennywise is or why he appears every twenty-seven years or why he preys on children because it’s not necessary. Everything the viewer needs is in subtext, which means that the intrigue doesn’t drop throughout the film.
There are many hints that there’s something a bit weird about Derry. There’s an abundance of abusive parents, a seemingly non-existent police force and a general feeling that everyone in Derry knows that something is amiss. This is all told through small moments in the film and they make it feel like a much bigger world and give the characters backstory and depth, all of which are important when we find out what Pennywise is.
Bill Skarsgård is fantastically horrible as Pennywise. He plays the role with a creepiness that’s hard to pinpoint. It’s a general vibe he gives off that might make him endearing to children, yet would send alarm bells ringing for adults. At times, it’s almost goofy. It’s a brilliantly simple performance and he doesn’t try to overact. His performance is effectively enhanced with the use of CGI effects which adds that extra horror element.
The horror was perfectly woven into the plot of the characters and their own personal journeys. The scares are for the characters rather than for the audience and there aren’t unnecessary scares just for the sake of it. Although the film does play on classic horror tropes, the real fear for the audience comes from caring for these characters.
The perfect blend of horror and adventure as well as the excellent cast make It a lot of fun.