A whole technology was scarred forever and saddled with a clown phobia thanks to slumber party screenings of the 1990 miniseries version of Stephen King’s “It,” starring Tim Curry as the creepy killer clown Pennywise.
In hindsight, the “It” miniseries is more goofy than terrifying, and the jacked-up, R-rated feature film version, directed by Andy Muschietti, strikes movie monitors just with time for a fresh generation to build up a healthy fear of murderous men in white face paint.
Despite its dated ’90s quirks, the “It” miniseries is strangely engrossing for its raw and honest depiction of men and women demolishing their years as a child fears. The child years that King depicts isn’t one of innocence but of violence, maltreatment, brutality and overlook. The new “It” latches onto that theme, predominantly by eschewing the adult portions, and focusing totally on the kids’ storyline, which takes place during the warmer summer months of 1989.
Muschietti has cast an excellent group of young adults to experience the pubescent warriors who face off against Pennywise, including Finn Wolfhard from “Stranger Things,” Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Jack port Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff. The lone lady of the group, Beverly, is enjoyed by Sophia Lillis, a plucky combination of Molly Ringwald and Mia Farrow.
Who steps in to the oversize shoes of Pennywise, one of Curry’s most indelible tasks? Bill Skarsgard, a Swedish professional, one of the seven Skarsgard sons of Stellan Skarsgard. And he totally nails it. Skarsgard has Pennywise’s collection delivery down pat, the blend of cajoling and creepy improved with large, glowing eye boring into your spirit. It’s such a great performance that you want Muschietti got eased through to the CGI and simply let Skarsgard do the talking.
That tendency can be an indication of the problems at hand in “It.” The scares come fast, furious and digitally increased, when they could have been far better paced out, gradually building with the surreal imagery that employs Pennywise just about everywhere he goes. Although story is improved in parts, it’s mostly faithful to numerous of the collection pieces of the initial miniseries, just with more numbing digital development.
The most disappointing history changes from the miniseries encompass the character of Bev, the solo young lady in the group of “Losers.” In “It,” the camera leers at her more youthful body, reveals her as a erotic object to be gawked at by young children and harvested men similarly, which doesn’t remain well when she’s also a sufferer of implied sexual maltreatment by her father. It proves to be always a star convert for the accomplished and fiery Lillis, but regrettably, her figure becomes a damsel in problems having to be rescued.
Eventually, “It” works not due to its supernatural scares (though there are some good jumps), but because of the characters at the guts of this tale. An R-rating permits the type of potty-mouthed humor endemic to teenage young boys, and “It” is sincerely, laugh-out-loud funny, often more than it’s terrifying, especially because of Wolfhard, who performs the loud-mouth Richie, and Grazer as germaphobe neatnik Eddie.
That is a monster that can’t be comprised by any rules or logic, and that’s frustrating. Concerns and phobias aren’t always tangible, but Pennywise helps it be so. If only the film possessed slowed down somewhat to give room to the character most likely to imprint himself on the amygdala of an generation.