Reaching audiences and terrifying the masses since first rolling off the printing press, Stephen King’s eighteenth novel It was released in 1986. Only 4 years later the massive, international bestseller was broadcast directly into quiet homes in a cherished classic of horror in a two-episode mini-series. Regarded as one of the most loved King adaptations in history, Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema were left with some pretty large shoes to fill.
Twenty-seven years after the initial mini-series release, Pennywise, the Dancing Clown finally made his silver screen debut. And he did so with absolute success. The dark and eerie atmosphere was offset by pleasant and colorful scenes indicative of the late 80s. Accompanied by a soundtrack that ebbs and flows the emotions of the viewer with unexpected accuracy only envelopes you more. All of this is brought to life with tremendous writing and phenomenal acting all around.
THE DARK AND THE BRIGHT
When the tone is dark, the scenery matches; when it is bright, it follows suit. Most other modern horror movies fail atmospherically in one of two ways. First, they try to keep a dark, and gritty atmosphere the whole way through. Second, they throw brightly colored, borderline happy scenes throughout to create a false sense of security. This happens with such obscurity that is can be downright jarring. Where so many have failed in the past few years, 2017s It succeeds.
The scenes involving the quiet town of Derry, Maine are colorful and almost enthusiastically optimistic. Bright summer days and neon lit arcades build the scenery around the Losers’ Club as they go about their innocent lives. Things are kept fitting for the period. That is until the darker history claws its way out of the sewers. The scenes involving the horrors and fears shift to dark and gritty tones that cast a visual spell on the viewer so indicative of the moments content it is almost inspired.
THE SOUNDS OF HORROR
These visual cues are matched seamlessly by the audio and soundtrack. Rather than depending solely on sudden blaring noise to through the viewer off, It allows for the gradual build up. This creates a greater sensation of tension as opposed grating and brash shifts that slowly lose their impact. This is broken up by a mixture of settling music and a soundtrack telling of 1988. The Cure, New Kids on the Block, and Anthrax, among others, make musical appearances in the film. Terrific and fearsome audio is pepper all throughout the one-hundred-thirty-five-minute experience.
Now, fans of the original mini-series and the novel it is based on will find some clear problems throughout the movie. This is unescapable. Adaptations only come about when there is enough love for source material to warrant it. This means that there are high expectations; some may say unobtainable expectations. Some of the loved moments from the first two iterations may be lost in this version, but these are few and far between. Wholly, the 2017 iteration of It tells the same baseline story fans have come to love, with enough changes to keep it fresh as opposed to a shot-for-shot remake. But do not worry, there are enough subtle Easter Eggs hidden throughout to warrant a second viewing on their own.
LOSERS AND LAUGHS
Perfectly released twenty-seven years after the original mini-series, the 2017 version of It still tells the story of Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. This beast plagues the town of Derry every twenty-seven years. Children go missing in the horrors of their own deepest, darkest fears. Once filled with the warm and tingles of tormenting children, Pennywise hibernates for another twenty-seven years.
The quite drastic change in Pennywise’s appearance was welcomed by many and condemned by some. Remaining the minimalistic nature of the terrifying clown beast nonetheless, this version is truly the stuff of nightmares. Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård brings the beast to life with new vigor and unsettling shifts in emotion that Tim Curry himself would be proud of. Pennywise is sweet and enticing, like a real-life circus act before transforming, sometimes literally, into the creature of terror. The balance of playfulness and horror is expertly executed. Similar levels of expert talent come from the members of the Losers Club. All of the early adolescents portray their place as young teens without coming across as over the top and laughable.
All of this comes from a meticulously crafted screenplay and direction. Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman a horror film with virtually no glaring plot holes was taken from page to screen under the direction of Andy Muschietti. It is a rare mixture of funny, wholesome, and terrifying. For one of the few times in cinema history, teens speak and act like teens in a rather natural and organic way. The crude misplacement of curse words, dirty/ blue humor, and rehashing of inside jokes feels like real teens as opposed to scripted to sound like them. Some truly moving moments centered around the traditional and cliché motifs of family and friendship actual strike home rather than feeling forced. And it goes without saying that the horror is real for the clown of fears.
Stephen King’s It have forever cemented itself as a standard in horror for over three decades; and rightfully so. Warner Bros. decided it was time to finally pull Pennywise, the Dancing Clown from the page and small screen, to the big, silver one. With such large shoes to fill, there was obvious hesitation. Only, this year’s iteration surpassed expectations by maintaining the traditional tale with enough new to keep viewers entranced. From scenery and sound to performances and story, It checks all the boxes while remaining fun and terrifying instead of stale and cookie cutter. This is one adaptation that will stick around for quite some time. Even when you are burying your face and hiding from your biggest fears, remember that we all float down here.