Coincidence or marketing genius, the new adaptation of Stephen King’s terrifying classic It just came out today, 27 years after Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 TV version starring the brilliant Tim Curry as the now famous, frightening clown, Pennywise, who successfully traumatized an entire generation. A not so innocent timing (fans of the book probably knew that already) actually reminiscent of that from the original story itself in which the interval between each of the evil entity’s resurgences to terrorize the small town of Derry, Maine, is the exact same period of time. (Clever, eh?)
Back in the horror movie business 4 years after Mama, Argentinian director Andy Muschietti takes up the challenge of telling one of King’s most popular stories by setting it in more modern times (not that modern – the beloved ’80s instead of the ’50s in the book) to convey the peculiar terror that made the success of the original narrative via a brand new, redesigned monster (Bill Skarsgård).
Questioning Muschietti’s ability for making a movie that gets your adrenaline going isn’t relevant here. Instead, following in the footsteps of Tim Curry’s remarkable performance in the first live version and trying to revamp a tale from 1989 to please an audience with increasingly changing tastes is what’s truly worth examining.
So let’s find out, thanks to our many precious critics, if It 2.0 managed to outdo its predecessor or should be relegated to a dangerous, failed attempt at reviving the horrible clown.
A Bright Young Cast
The “dynamic” band of adolescents at the center of the movie, “among whom there is no single weak link,” “is consistently good company.” “Following the novel’s example, Muschietti has constructed a film that’s just as much “Stand by Me” as creature feature […] assembling a group of youngsters who are every bit as funny, irritating and empathetic as the script requires.” Given a lot of space and time for their “memorable” characters to be introduced properly, “each of the seven losers gets their due, and the result is a well-rounded ensemble, as awkward and romantic as they are foul-mouthed and funny.”
As for the one with the biggest shoes to fill, Bill Skarsgård, “who is at times seductive, and at times the appalling personification of every scary clown meme on the Internet,” gets to embody “one of the most visually extreme horror villains on record.” The actor “proves the centerpiece of the 2017 vintage” leaving “a hell of an impression.” However, he “never manages to cast as long a shadow as Tim Curry did” with the same character.
Faithful to the Essence of Stephen King’s Story
One thing is for sure, Muschietti knows It‘s audience very well and proves it throughout the entire movie. Emphatically not the adaptation from 1990, “Muschietti’s version feels distinct, discarding the back-and-forth timelines for a straightforwardly linear story […] shifting things along by 30 years or so, from the original ’50s setting to the more Amblin-esque ’80s.” Understanding that “King’s small-town nostalgia is purposefully grandiose,” the director “gets right out in front of King’s story and tells the hell out of it,” taking advantage of everything he knows about the spectators. “The action is generally clean and comprehensibly staged,” and it’s guaranteed to deliver “sequences that are perfectly horrifying.”
Just like the book “a meditation on childhood, trauma, and forgetting,” King’s fans will “surely appreciate the clear effort and affection that went into this adaptation.”
With a sequel already planned that will focus on adulthood (what the kids grew up to become years – 27, if you’ve been following – after all the traumatizing events of the first chapter), It therefore only covers half of King’s book. An essential chunk that helps better understand the story and its development, which by missing here creates a sense of incompletion and lack of depth. Ultimately, feeling like a “flashier half of a longer story,” the film “struggles to find a proper rhythm.” There’s “a fundamental hollowness that haunts” it, but “perhaps that’s inevitable.”
The new film, “a skillful blend of nostalgic sentiment and hair-raising effects, with the visual punch of big-screen digital hocus-pocus and the liberties of the R rating, still has the soothing charm of familiarity.” It “captures our affection for simpler times with constant visual references to 1980s nostalgia,” ranking among the best Stephen King adaptations.
Best quotes from the reviews:
“Everything is creepier with a scary clown in it.” – William Bibbiani, IGN
“It assembles a squad of early and preadolescent ghostbusters as varied as an infantry platoon in a World War II combat picture.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times
“In a cinematic landscape weighed down by increasingly unnecessary franchises, you’ll leave It desperate for a sequel – something of which a marketing department charged with prompting a two-letter film could only have dreamed.” – John Nugent, Empire
“In Search of Lost Time bloodied up for the grindhouse,” – Andrew Baker, Variety