One of the horror genre's most iconic villains is Pennywise returns in Warner Brother's adaption of Stephen King's classic novel, It. Initially published in 1986 and later adapted into a popular 1990's miniseries. It tells the Losers Club story, a group of friends who reside in the Town of Derry, Maine. Local kids are disappearing one by one, leaving behind bloody remains. In a place known as 'The Barrens,' the Losers Club are united by their horrifying and strange encounters with an evil clown and their determination to kill the evil force.
Directed with a suspenseful flair by Andy Muschietti, who previously helmed 2008's Mama, the remake of It could have either been a total misfire or success. One of the best choices that Muschietti and his screenwriter Gary Dauberman made was to update the time period. In the original novel and the miniseries, the sections with the children took place during 1958, while the current version's setting occurred in 1989. Also, we never see the Losers Club as adults as we did in the miniseries. By setting the film in 1989 and not showing the characters as adults, I was able to identify with the characters more.
The child actors who make up the Losers club all do excellent work. However, Jaden Lierberher as Bill, the group's leader, Finn Wolfhard as the wise-cracking Richie, and Sophia Lillis as Beverly are the film's real standouts. The chemistry between the child actors is very believable and, indeed, the heart of the film. When the remake was announced naturally, the big question was who would take the role of Pennywise? Tim Curry created an unforgettable Pennywise, a villain with so much magnetism in the 1990 miniseries that most only remember him in the role and not how mediocre the miniseries was.
With the updated version and In the case of Bill Skarsgård, who plays Pennywise, it's a different approach, taking beyond that sinister look. From his opening scene, I knew that Skarsgård had the role nailed. I walked out of the theater favoring Skarsgård's take on the part, as it was closer to King's original take on the character. My one criticism of the film is the handling of Mike's character, the lone African American in the Losers Club. In the novel, by giving a history of Derry to his friends, Mike has a purpose. However, in the updated version, he's almost a throwaway character. Instead, these character traits belong to the character of Ben. While Mike does have a heroic moment during the film's climax, I would have loved to see the character represented closer to how he was in the book.
For me, It has never been a straightforward horror flick or novel, for that matter. I've always found, It to be more about overcoming some of the world's evils and what scares us the most. Director Muschietti nails this aspect of the novel. Also, he gives us one of the best adaptions of a Stephen King property and one of the best movies of the fall season, which I highly recommend.
Final Grade: A