by Ale Turdó
Anybody who was born and bred in the late 80s who would frequent the local videostore was probably marked by IT (1990), the TV mini-series that, as far as Argentina is concerned, spawned a rather extensive VHS following.
Based on one of the most successful – and lengthy – novels by Stephen King, the story was about an interdimensional monster that took the form of a clown to lure in the children of a small town. An entire generation adopted it as a cult classic. Following decades of rumored developmental hell, our own local Andy Muschietti (Mother, 2013) finally brings the story to the big screen.
There isn’t much use in comparing the original 1990 version to this one, specially if you take into account each version’s intent, tone and budget. The made-for-TV flick managed to sear itself into the minds of many young cinephiles, exploiting to the max all of its limited resources and leaning heavily on the unforgettable performance by Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown. In contrast, this new adaptation has enjoyed a bigger budget, the luxury of a fierce multiplatform publicity campaign and the dual challenge of appealing to Stephen King fans as a much as fans of the original adaptation.
Taking place in the town of Derry – the fictional epicenter of the King universe – the story involved the mysterious disappearences of the town children. When Georgie, Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) younger brother, joins the growing list of the vanished, Bill and his group of friends – known as the ‘Losers’ Club’ – discover the tragedy underlying the town which involves an obscure creature in the guide of a clown, called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). The group of kids will have to facetheir biggest fears, both real and fancied, in order to unmask the monster and end its evil.
Thanks to the R rating, the movie doesn’t compromise the story’s more graphic, bloodier moments, something that becomes shockingly apparent from sequence one. And in the midst of the Stranger Things craze, it’s comforting to see that the director does not abuse nostalgic references nor does it succum to petty fanservice (even if Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard joins the kiddy cast). In any case, it must’ve been tempting, considering how the new version updates the time period from the 50s to the 80s, which is the pop nostalgia decade par excellence.
Noteworthy among the young cast are Lieberher and Sophia Lillis, who plays Beverly Marsh, the lone girl in the Losers’ Club. It’s interesting to see in the big screen how the fears pertaining puberty and early adolescence are blended with the fear for this monster whom only they can stand up against.
Skarsgård delivers a strong peformance as Pennywise, avoiding a send-up of Curry’s. His childish features and peculiar body language make for an interesting combo, a catalyst for some very tense, unsettling moments. The one goof is that the movie tends to repeat itself, in terms of mise en scene and overusing certain visual techniques.
In spite of featuring a first sequence that doesn’t quite fit, aesthetically, with the rest of the movie, Muschietti delivers some interesting work, giving life to Derry as re-imagined in a different decade while retaining that distinctive small town Americana flavor of King’s. Clearly the director knows his craft, and in IT has found an apt story that, beyond all things scary and fantastic, puts an emphasis on the trauma of maturing, growing up and defeating innermost fears.
Alejandro Turdó / Writer (CABA, Argentina – 1982) Ale got his degree in Image & Sound Design at Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) and is also a Technician in Audiovisual Post-Production. For year’s he’s been a critic for EscribiendoCine and A Sala Llena, a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic and a Redactor of Digital Content. He talks film at http://www.radioborder.tv.