It  (2017)    Warner Bros./Horror    RT: 135 minutes    Rated R (violence, horror, bloody images, language)    Director: Andy Muschietti    Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman    Music: Benjamin Wallfisch    Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung    Release date: September 8, 2017 (US)    Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard, Nicholas Hamilton, Jake Sim, Logan Thompson, Owen Teague, Jackson Robert Scott, Steven Bogaert, Stuart Hughes.



 The Dark Tower sucked, we all know it. It’s yet another entry on the long list of botched Stephen King adaptations that includes Cujo, Firestarter and Needful Things. It, on the other hand, does not belong on that list. It shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath. It stands alongside the best of the King adaptations- e.g. The Shining, Carrie, Christine, Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption. Not only is it the best horror movie I’ve seen in some time, it’s also one of the year’s best movies. It’s like Stand by Me, The Goonies and Stranger Things all rolled into one. It’s not just about a killer clown terrorizing kids, it’s also about friendship, bonding and facing one’s worst fears. It is a scary movie with heart.

it poster Set in the summer of 1989, the action takes place in Derry, a seemingly idyllic small town with a dark history. People, especially kids, have a habit of disappearing without a trace. It happens in Derry at six times the national average. It centers on a group of misfit preteens dubbed “The Losers Club”. The leader is Bill (Lieberher, Midnight Special) who’s having a hard time coping with his brother’s disappearance the previous October. In the opening scene, little Georgie (Scott) is playing with a paper boat during a storm when he’s dragged into the sewer by a clown calling himself “Pennywise the Dancing Clown” (Skarsgard, Atomic Blonde). Bill is convinced he’s still alive somewhere and sets out to find him with the help of his pals foul-mouthed bespectacled jokester Richie (Wolfhard, Stranger Things), hypochondriac Eddie (Grazer, Tales of Halloween) and Stan (Oleff, Guardians of the Galaxy), a nervous Jewish kid getting ready for his bar mitzvah. They are later joined by intelligent fat kid Ben (Taylor, the upcoming Geostorm), homeschooled black kid Mike (Jacobs) and Beverly (Lillis, 37), a girl with an undeserved reputation as a slut. She’s regularly abused at home by her father (Bogaert).

 As the kids investigate what’s going in their town, something that nobody wants to acknowledge, they’re all faced with their worst fears. There is something evil in the town of Derry and it manifests itself in a number of ways. It mainly shows up in the form of Pennywise. It’s up to Bill and the gang to take on and defeat Pennywise to rid Derry of evil for good. It should be mentioned that the kids face additional problems with town bully Henry Bowers (Hamilton, The Dark Tower) and his gang of creeps. Henry is a nasty, sadistic type who makes Buddy Repperton from Christine look like Mr. Rogers.

 Andy Muschietti, who also directed 2013’s Mama (an overlooked fright flick), does an amazing job bringing King’s 1985 best seller to big screen life. It has a few good jump scares and Pennywise effectively reinforces the fear of clowns many of us have (me included). He’s a genuinely scary creation; you can feel the malevolence and menace every time he appears. What I’m about to say will be blasphemous to some, I can’t believe I’m saying it myself, but Skarsgard outdoes Tim Curry (say it isn’t so!) who played the role in the 1990 TV miniseries. To me, Curry is pure awesomeness and casting him in the role was pure genius but there was only so far you could go on network TV back then before the censors showed up with their scissors. This new Pennywise, a distant cousin of Freddy Krueger, will be the star of many a nightmare. This clown is freaking creepy as hell.

 Now here’s the thing about It. It’s also great fun. It reminded of the kinds of movies they used to make in the 80s. It takes place in a Spielberg-like universe where kids went on dangerous adventures without helicopter parents spoiling their fun with adult chaperones and hand sanitizer. The year 1989 is recreated perfectly with references to Batman (the Tim Burton movie), Street Fighter (the arcade game) and New Kids on the Block. It’s one of the things different from the novel which took place in 1958. A few things had to left out like a couple of scenes involving preteen sexuality that surely would have earned It the dreaded NC-17 rating. All in all, it’s a great adaptation. As a fan, I appreciate the decision to split it into two movies. The second chapter dealing with the characters as adults 27 years later is due in 2019.

 The child actors are phenomenal in their respective roles. They’re almost exactly as I pictured them in my mind when I read It in ’87. They have an easy rapport with each other; their camaraderie is absolutely palpable. Lillis sensitively portrays a girl living a nightmare at home with a skeevy pervert of a father and no mother. Lieberher is also very good as a kid coping with an unspeakable tragedy, one that renders him all but invisible at home (shades of Stand by Me). In fact, there’s quite a bit of Stand by Me in It. There’s also a scene that recalls the famous elevator scene from The Shining. The only thing I didn’t like about It is the CGI. I think practical effects would have better given the movie’s 80s vibe. This is just a small problem however. I can’t be too hard on any aspect of It. I really, REALLY enjoyed it. I saw it on a Saturday night which brought back memories of the many Friday and Saturday nights of my youth spent watching cool horror movies in theaters filled with teens. This is how horror is supposed to be; fun, scary and R-rated. Believe me, It earns its R. It also earns the four stars I gave it. I’d say we have a new horror classic on our hands.

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