By HARRY FISHER
In 1986, acclaimed horror novel writer, Stephen King, terrified the world with one of his most famous stories, “It.” The story is set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, a town that is haunted by a shape-shifting demonic clown known as Pennywise.
Every 27 years, Pennywise awakens to terrorize the town’s children by taking the forms of their greatest fears before eating them alive. In the novel, seven children who call themselves the “Loser’s Club” band together in order to face their fears and defeat Pennywise. Unfortunately when they return to the town 27 years later and discover what “It” truly is they have to try to destroy “It” once and for all.
The novel is, in essence, a story about learning to overcome childhood trauma, face one’s fears and how friendship can be used to overcome evil. “It” has been hailed as one of King’s best novels and one of the greatest horror stories ever written. It was adapted into a TV miniseries in 1990, which was well-received at the time. The new 2017 adaptation of “It” is proving to be a huge success among critics and fans.
With Halloween less than a week away, Pennywise is surely on the minds of many horror fans, some of whom are sure to dress up as the creepy clown himself. Between Halloween and the arrival of the new movie, now is the perfect time for newcomers to get into this fantastic horror story for the first time.
Most people became familiar with the story of “It” by watching the 1990 two-part TV miniseries. The miniseries did have some high points, such as Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise, and a few legitimately chilling scenes. However, the film is criticized today for having poor pacing, terrible special effects, a few hokey performances and a disappointing climax that is not worth the three hour runtime. It’s just simply not as scary as it once was as scenes that were once considered frightening are now dated.
Overall, it makes for a good popcorn movie you can watch with a bunch of friends and laugh at how cheesy it is.
This year, however, things have changed. Twenty-seven years after the original 1990 miniseries, the newest adaptation of “It” by Andy Muschietti was released back in September, and now the name Pennywise is once again sending chills down the spines of many fans.
Personally, I believe it is far beyond the 1990 miniseries in terms of quality and that it shows how great the concept of “It” can really be. The film chooses to focus on the members of the “Losers Club” when they’re kids in the late 1980’s rather than jump back and forth between kids and adults like the novel. This is a really interesting choice on the part of the filmmakers, one I believe works in the film’s favor.
The story of “It” is much more terrifying when told from the perspective of a group of children. It is also empowering to see the a group of children band together to stand up to their fears and fight back against Pennywise, than it is to see a group of adults do the same. Although a sequel which takes place in modern times with the characters now being adults is most likely in the works.
The casting in the film is also excellent. The young actors who play the members of the “Loser’s Club” are all instantly likeable and charming in their own ways. They all do a great job of portraying the characters.
In addition to being able to portray the terror of encountering Pennywise, these actors have great chemistry with one another. The viewer really gets a sense that the characters are close friends who care for one another and want to help each other face this horrific evil to save their town. At some points, the interactions between the characters can be quite humorous, almost reminding me of “The Goonies” or even “Stand By Me,” another one of Stephen King’s most famous stories.
Then, of course, there’s Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Personally, I think his performance exceeds Curry’s in every way. Curry was good at playing the character because he would act like a normal clown even while doing something evil or demonic. Skarsgard, on the other hand, acts like a clown who has gone completely insane, before suddenly transforming into a horrifying creature attacking the main characters.
His performance as Pennywise was definitely much more frightening and chilling in my eyes due to all of his lanky movements, not to mention his terrifying smile.
However, it’s not just Pennywise that makes this movie unsettling. The titular creature “It” takes the form of many different horrors and apparitions to terrify the “Loser’s Club.” While I don’t want to spoil any of Pennywise’s alternate forms here, it is worth mentioning that the film’s special effects do an excellent job of making these monsters seem real. They are far more disturbing than the mummies or werewolves that “It” used to turn into in the novel and the miniseries.
The film is also quite bold, while I don’t think it ever reached the point of being terrifying, there were still a number of scenes that disgusted or unsettled me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. These moments aren’t even limited to what happens between the kids and Pennywise. There are a number of minor adult characters who are extremely oppressive or abusive to the kids, even a murderous gang of bullies.
It all ties into King’s themes of kids learning to face their fears and overcome the evil forces that oppress them, giving the film a more realistic side that went well with the terrors that came from Pennywise. After 27 years, “It” has finally returned, and this time It may be here to stay.