This engaging take on Stephen King's chiller delivers more than enough frights
The scares come thick and fast in this fresh take on Stephen King's It that transposes the action from the 1950s to the late 1980s; though the jumps are well-crafted and visually creepy, their frequency strips away some of the suspense. Director Andy Muschietti (Mama) adopts a similar approach to the Nightmare on Elm Street films, throwing memorable gory images at the viewer like a good ghost train ride, and blending them with the spirit of a curious coming-of-age story that captures the mood of the book.
The iconic role of evil shape-shifting clown Pennywise (played so unforgettably by Tim Curry in the 1990 miniseries) goes to Bill Skarsgård, whose shiny plump red lips disturbingly dribble with devious intent. Skarsgård is effectively sinister as the sewer-dwelling monster, introduced basically beat for beat in an impactful opening scene, where the younger brother of Bill Denbrough (Midnight Special's Jaeden Lieberher) is stolen away and chewed up (the special effects team do great work on Pennywise's sharp incisors, turning them into a chilling creature).
Bill spends his summer searching for little Georgie with his friends, and eventually forms The Loser's Club with Beverly (a superb Sophia Lillis) who lives with an alcoholic father, Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Richie (Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) – an overweight bookworm who pieces together the dark history of Derry, Maine where every 27 years evil comes a-calling to feast on fear.
The use of New Kids on the Block on the soundtrack and Ben's secret love of the band adds an endearing charm that bleeds over into the bonding scenes, where the kids form an alliance against the local bullies and Pennywise. Though Beverly is the only girl in the group and is essentially swooned over by the others, the film spends a lot of time presenting her abusive home-life and acknowledging how her burgeoning sexuality is laced with self-loathing in comparison to the excitement felt by the boys.
Chapter One of this It adaptation lays down solid groundwork for the planned second instalment, where the grown-up versions of the kids will be introduced. The film spends enough time shading in the backstories and drumming up emotional investment in the gang's quest to make the prospect of Part Two thoroughly appealing.
General release from Fri 8 Sep.