"It" (2017) Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Growing up, I remember watching Tommy Lee Wallace's 1990 movie/miniseries "It", and being terrified at Tim Curry's performance as the terrifying clown, Pennywise, from the classic Stephen King novel. He basically embodied the horror children feel, and is pure nightmare fuel based on how he gave his performance. When you get older, you realize that it is more cheesy than scary, but Curry's performance will always haunt those childhood dreams of yours. I wasn't sure if there was anyone else that could ever top Curry's fantastic performance, so I was a tad skeptical when they announced a new adaptation of this terrifying clown character. However, Bill Skarsgård completely blew my expectations out of the water, and gave one of the best horror performances in the past thirty years.
This film focuses on the first half of King's 1,138 page novel, which follows a group of kids who call themselves "The Losers". The group consists of Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Martell), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Eddie Kaspbrack (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff), Ben Hansom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs). Through different circumstances, they all become friends and try to get through middle school, which is probably what every child tries to do.
However, they are not normal kids. They are being haunted by an evil entity who takes the form of the clown, Pennywise. He has been preying on the kids in the town, warranting many missing posters to be hung on light posts and stapled to walls and posts. When Pennywise takes special interest in them, and with Bill wanting to avenge the death of his little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), the Losers must now find a way to kill this evil clown, and rid the town of Derry, Maine from this harborer of evil and destruction.
The novel starts off with the death of Georgie, who dies by Pennywise biting his arm off and dragging him into the sewer on a rainy day. This serves as the opening scene for this 2017 adaptation, and I think director Andy Muschietti pulled it off perfectly. He built up so much suspense and dread right from the opening moments, and the viewer is terrified to see how the filmmakers are going to brutally murder this little kid on the screen. When it does happen, there is not a single thing that I would change. From barely seeing the clown in the sewer to the haunting facial expressions both him and Georgie make, it shakes the viewer to their core. When Pennywise does finally attack, it fills the viewer with a sense of dread and horror, and perfectly creates the tone going forward in this film.
From there, I think all of the child actors do a fantastic job of playing these characters. It seems like they actually take the words off of King's books and bring them to life in every right possible way. They couldn't have hired better actors to portray the children, and all of them are young professionals. From the way they handle the scenes when a terrifying clown is coming at them to the humor they are able to inject in this movie, they all play a huge part in making this film what it is.
However, without a doubt, the standout performance is from Skarsgård, who perhaps gave the performance everyone will remember him for. As the son of actor Stellan Skarsgård and the brother of Alexander Skarsgård (who stars in films such as "The Northman" and the tv show, "Big Little Lies"), Bill had to do something to make himself stand out and make a huge mark on the film world. I can't think of a better actor to portray this terrifying character. I don't say this often, but Skarsgård's performance is perfect. There's no better way to describe it; everything he does is so methodical and perfectly timed that he scares the bejesus out of every viewer. He very well might have given the best performance of his career here, as well as one of the best monster horror performances of all time.
One thing I do want to comment on is the fantastic set design and cinematography as they both fully immerse the viewer into the film. Consider the Leper's house, which is where Pennywise resides throughout his reign of terror. It is so dirty and grisly, and makes the viewer feel extremely dirty from watching it. At the same time, the cinematography is shot so well that it makes the viewer feel trapped and claustrophobic as this psycho killer is hunting down the kids and brutally murdering them. It's beautiful, in its own twisted and disturbed way.
Everything about this movie simply just works. I don't really see anything I could or would want to change about this film, and I definitely applaud everyone involved in making this movie. I was skeptical as many modern horror remakes usually fail or make a mockery of the classic, but this is hands down the best adaptation of King's novel, and might be one of the best King adaptations of all time.