Director: Andy Muschietti
Screenwriters: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Daverman based on Stephen King’s eponymous novel.
Jeremy Ray Taylor
Jack Dylan Grazer
Runtime: 135 mins.
Australian release date: 7 September 2017
Previewed at: Roadshow Theatrette, Sydney, on 4 September 2017.
The awkward years of adolescence, when all adults look weird and seem to behave strangely, and the ‘unknown unknowns’ of growing up are the driving forces of Stephen King’s famous novel It, which has been scaring the pants off people for years. In this film version of It, by the Argentinian director Andy Muschietti, the scriptwriting team have done a reasonably good job of translating the horror of those years to the screen. It’s sort of like a gory version of Stand By Me, which isn’t surprising given that the 1986 film was also based on a book by Stephen King. There’s another similarity too: the heavy swearing and use of the F-word from the movie’s young actors. It’s unnecessary and it doesn’t particularly ring true given the periods in which the films are set.
It begins in October 1988 and goes through to the following September as it tells the story of seven young kids growing up in the small town of Derry, Maine. All outcasts for one reason or another (they refer to themselves as losers), they band together for friendship and mutual protection from the town bullies. But it’s not only bullies roaming the streets of Derry; for years a supernatural entity only spoken of as ‘It’ has intermittently appeared to hunt down the town’s children: Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgård). One of the youngsters figures out that there’s a 27-year cycle to his murderous mayhem and together the gang set out to put and end to it once and for all.
The children are all very good in their roles, especially Jaeden Lieberher as the ostensible ‘lead’ and Jeremy Ray Taylor, and each has an identifiable characteristic. Only one of them is female (Sophia Lillis) so, of course, she becomes the love interest for some of the boys. It’s all very innocent though. Australian editor Jason Ballantine of Mad Max: Fury Road fame helps to amp up the tension and the accompanying music by English composer Benjamin Wallfisch is suitably eerie. Still, it must be said that despite Pennywise being a truly terrifying figure, somehow you know it’s going to turn out alright for the ‘good’ kids, which detracts from the scariness of the clown’s scenes. And isn’t being scared the raison d’être of horror films?