Adolescence is terrifying. It is in that transition from kid to adult when it slowly occurs to you very little protects you from the dangerous realities of a cold, cruel world. Throw in acne and body hair; and a fear-sucking, child-eating, shape-shifting, demon clown doesn’t seem that far outside the realm of possibility.
This is what is at play in “It,” a horror flick based on Stephen King’s roughly 9,000-page novel (I only slightly exaggerate). The only other adaptation was a 1990 TV miniseries that was pretty much forgettable aside from Tim Curry lurking in sewers and ruining clowns for an entire generation as the titular monster.
Nearly 30 years later, with a little help from improved special effects, “It” packs a wallop by combining coming-of-age drama with relentless suspense and jaw-dropping scares.
Even though “It” has all the jumps and splatter horror fans crave, it’s the movie’s heart that leaves the longest impression.
Set in the late 1980s in the small town of Derry, Maine, children have been disappearing without a trace. The kids that are left find themselves tormented by horrifying visions that reflect their deepest, innermost fears.
This is especially true for the Losers Club, a group of friends who are social outcasts and the most obvious targets on the playground — not to mention easy pickings for a diabolical monster.
The young cast does a fine job of playing beyond their stereotypes as the stutterer (Jaeden Lieberher), the overweight kid (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the girl with the bad reputation (Sophia Lillis), the Jewish kid (Wyatt Oleff), the smart-aleck (Finn Wolfhard), the black kid (Chosen Jacobs) and the hypochondriac (Jack Dylan Grazer).
What the kids soon discover is there is strength in numbers, whether they’re facing down bullies or a monster that likes to spend most of his time disguised as a creepy clown calling himself Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard).
Director Andy Muschietti doesn’t pull any punches when delivering the scares, but he smartly pushes to the forefront the unsentimental view of childhood that marks the very best of King’s work, as seen in movies like “Stand By Me.”
Skarsgard deserves a lot of credit for tackling such an iconic character and putting his own, nightmare-haunting spin on it.
“It” has a few kinks, most notably it’s probably about 20 minutes too long (as fans of the novel quietly chuckle). But, for the most part, this is horror at its finest by being unnerving, heartfelt, and occasionally funny.
At the very least, “It” gives you a really good reason to stay out of sewers and circuses, which is a win-win all the way around if you ask me.
“It” is rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and language.