Every 27 years murder and carnage come to a town in Maine. A group of friends in their early teens realise they must come together to fight this thing; a shape-shifting entity that feeds on fear and dresses as a clown – one of the old fashioned scary ones who has no interest in theatre in education or circus skills workshops – only terror and children’s flesh.
Stephen King’s enormous novel was due a remake. The 1990 made for television mini-series was disappointing and was not especially frightening but there was something about IT. IT got under your skin. IT lingered in the memory. When you consider the generation who saw the show would have been around the same age as the gang in the story and would already be thinking they’d like to make horror films one day; a fresh take was inevitable.
However, this is not a remake. Apart from an evil clown the two have little in common. Comparing the two feels unfair on the actors, Tim Curry (1990) and Bill Scarsgård (2017) but we can’t help ourselves. Curry’s is an angrier clown – more emotional and funnier. You begin to suspect there’s a complex demon beneath the face paint. Scarsgård’s is simply pure evil but he looks fantastical, and frankly fantastic, against Curry’s more believable and drab appearance. If Curry had Scarsgård’s costume and make-up team we would be looking at the best movie monster since Alien.
The child actors are all excellent. One of them, Finn Wolfhard, also appears in VoD Netflix series Stranger Things and this can be distracting. Stranger Things is a horror and supernatural show made partly in tribute to King’s stories and films, especially Stand By Me and It. All feature friendship, monsters and bikes. Influence has come full circle.
Hugely enjoyable and yes quite frightening IT is not frightening enough. IT feels like a ghost-train ride. This is slick and surprising but the horror of childhood and the terror of loss never quite dig deep enough. But then I’ve thought of little else since seeing it. Get back to me in 27 years.