Floating red balloons, a clown’s face paint and high-pitched laugh are all rather innocent items in such a troublesome world. Throw them into an adaptation of Stephen King’s It however, and they become much more sinister and unsettling than you could ever possibly imagine. It is the latest horror phenomenon to be unleashed upon the world and if you haven’t heard of it, you must have been living under a rock. King’s novel is regarded as one of the scariest of all time so would they be able to do a similar job with this film adaptation?
When children start disappearing in the small town of Derry, a group of bullied kids, who refer to themselves as “The Losers Club”, band together to take down the monster responsible, which has taken the form of Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard).
While it may not be as terrifying as the marketing would lead you to believe, there is no denying that It is certainly one of the most unsettling and sadistic films in recent years. The very sense of a monstrous clown praying on and devouring children is enough to make you shudder but when they decide to present it in such a graphic manner, it all becomes even more horrific.
As we all know, there is much more to horror films than just jump scares and director Andy Muschietti fully understands this, his film offering an array of techniques that mean Pennywise will get under your skin by more than just making you jump. Muschietti utilises the musical work of Benjamin Wallfisch and Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography to great effect, particularly whenever Pennywise makes an appearance. There is a fair share of CGI used in It which, rather disappointingly, takes the edge off some of the film’s major set-pieces however, It remains a well crafted horror film.
Coming to the performances, It features a suitably unhinged turn from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Clown. The subtlety of some of his more sinister moments make the moments he lets loose much more impactful, certainly giving Tim Curry a run for his money as the best incarnation of the character.
The real star of It though is the extremely talented group of child actors assembled for “The Losers Club”. We spend pretty much the entire film with these kids so they had to make sure they casted actors with enough screen presence, even in their youthful years. The group share such a wonderful chemistry, both the moments of banter and care towards one another feeling so genuine that you can’t help but root for them to take Pennywise down. They were all really good here but Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia “Amy Adams Jr” Lillis and Finn Wolfhard, who we all know from Stranger Things, were the true standouts for me.
It falters a little as a work of pure terror, the disturbing nature of the film striking much more of a chord for me, but it soars as a coming-of-age film, thanks to the writing and performances of the main group of characters. Bring on the second chapter!