From Hollywood's finest—Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick—to the relative newcomer Andy Muschietti, directors have time and again turned to Stephen King's novels for scripts. Such collaborations have produced some of the most impressive flicks in the past few decades like The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Shining to some of the widely panned films like the Idris Elba-starrer The Dark Tower.
The latest in the line of this adaptation chain is the supernatural horror drama It, directed by Muschietti who has to his credit another horror thriller Mama. Starring Bill Skarsgard who played Matthew in The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Jaeden Lieberher of Midnight Special fame, Finn Wolfhard (who shot to fame with another story of a group of kids encountering supernatural things—Netflix's Stranger Things) and Sophia Lillis among others, It is about a group of kids in a fictional town, Derry, who are up against a diabolic clown. Derry has a history of missing kids and nobody seem to be doing much about it. The kids soon find out the reason for the disappearances and decide to do something about it while struggling to stay on top of their fears.
Skarsgard as the eponymous ‘It’ or Pennywise The Dancing Clown—a shape-shifting clown who can manipulate kids while staying completely away from the eyes of adults—gets one of the finest film entries for a villain as he entices the young Georgie from a drain. He feasts on the worst fears of each of the children and appears before them, taking the form of what they dread most. Occasionally charming, funny, hysterical and scary, Skarsgard seem to have managed to crawl into the skin of the clown quite effortlessly. However, the director fails to give him the same momentum as the film progresses and Pennywise ends up being just another monster in an attempt to become the sum of all fears of the protagonists. The vulnerability and brokenness that bind the kids—Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, Stan, Mike and Eddie—infuses enough pathos and drama into the movie, lifting Itfrom a mere monster-against-kids affair.
Following the adventurous band of boys and a girl in their pursuits and misdemeanours with a camera is Chung-hoon Chung, the cinematographer of the deliriously brilliant Oldboy and Lady Vengeance of the famed Korean Vengeance Trilogy. Muschietti and his cinematographer Chung recreate with perfection the settings and tone of late 1980s.
It works more as an allegory to growing up and growing out of fears than a routine horror flick. Adequate thought and time is spent on establishing the character of each of these kids and their fears instead of hurling them all into a herd. They are taunted, bullied, called names, constantly shamed at school and neglected at home so much that they decided to cement their camaraderie by calling their circle 'Losers Club'. By the close of the first chapter (the films ends calling itself It: Chapter One, giving the possibility of viewers see them facing Pennywise as adults, each of them have grown up a bit, learnt a thing or two about being there for each other and battling their fears together.
Of course, there are quite a few regular horror film props at play—the dark stairways, darker cellars and darker sewers, a scary sink, a deserted house and a few freakish folks. Muschietti, however, refrains from using too many jump scares although he hasn’t totally done away with them.
It is replete with tender moments to make it a likeable affair while staying true to the genre of horror.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis