The lights dim, hands dig into popcorn and watchers settle into their seats. Pennywise the Dancing Clown is returning to Derry, and to the big screen, 27 years later.
As a kid, you associate clowns with balloon animals, annoying carnival music and chalk white makeup. However, big red noses, disproportionately-large shoes and a singular floating red balloon became terrifying once the IT mini-series debuted in 1990. The first time Pennywise appeared in a storm drain, the perspective on clowns changed forever.
The new version of the film is far from a rehashing of the original. Now in the hands of Andy Muschietti and the unfiltered landscape of today’s horror genre, the iconic novel finally realizes its full potential.
Give it up for the kids
The members of the Losers’ Club — Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, Mike, Eddie and Stanley — face their worst fears, more exaggerated this time around. Some of them are changed entirely. Unlike the original, more emphasis is put on what scares them the most, instead of Pennywise being the main cause. Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and Beverly (Sophia Lillis) take charge, the only ones who have rational fears, guiding the others through defeating their phobias.
The downward spiral of the action is measured through the film’s comic relief Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard). Wolfhard projects an obnoxious rendition of Richie with over the top profanity, cheesy puns and crude jokes about mothers and sexual acts. The climax of the film reaches an unthinkable level of fear which carries even more weight when Wolfhard’s character finally breaks, giving Pennywise his full power through his real life coulrophobia (fear of clowns).
There are also more risqué sub-plots throughout the film, such as Beverly’s father’s sexual abuse towards her. This was raised in the novel, but not in the mini-series where he was just angry, not territorial of her, like in this adaptation.
The verdict on the clown
Bill Skarsgård, the new face of Pennywise, has a more elaborate aesthetic than Tim Curry’s in the 1990’s. Instead of looking like he could have been pulled off the lawn at a kid’s birthday party, Pennywise has more refined make-up and a more tailored costume, but still has that god-awful receding hairline. Although fans may find a lack of terror in his impersonation, which is a lot more conservative, this allows the rational horrors of the film to become just as prominent as those conjured up by Pennywise. This plot structure gives lots of breathing room to it’s truly horrific scenes, which outshines the iconic moments that terrified everyone who watched three decades ago.
There is a sequel in the works that will explore the members of the Losers’ Club returning to Derry as adults (per their blood oath) to fight off Pennywise, once and for all. It is unsure when it will come out, but if you can’t wait for the sequel, take Stephen King’s advice from Twitter: “…You can always read IT, the book. Just sayin’.”
( Insert 4 Stars here )