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“It: Chapter One” will go down as one of the best Stephen King adaptations…

Posted on September 11th, 2017
Posted on September 11th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

I never thought Stephen King’s infamous novel “It” needed a second screen adaptation since the 1990 TV miniseries was sufficiently entertaining and scary. However, this new adaptation arrives during a perfect storm with the growing popularity of the similarly-constructed “Stranger Things” on Netflix and the collective coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) gripping the public due to recent sightings of ‘creepy clowns’ reported around the country. Luckily, “It” hits all the right marks and could rank amongst the best cinematic Stephen King adaptations of all time.

In 1988, a string of missing children in Derry, Maine has the entire town on edge. A group of early teen friends calling themselves ‘The Losers’ Club’ all begin seeing frightening apparitions in broad daylight of a sinister clown calling itself ‘Pennywise’ (Bill Skarsgård). The leader of the group, having already lost his little brother, fears he and his friends will be next. As they try to figure out how to stop Pennywise’s reign of terror, the psychic shape-shifting clown retaliates by bringing their worst fears into reality.

The kids in the story are your archtypical misfits. You have the stuttering leader (Jaeden Lieberher), the brainy chubby kid (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the sexually abused/bullied girl (Sophia Lillis), the wimpy smart aleck (Finn Wolfhard), the only African American kid in town (Chosen Jacobs), the Jewish kid who is under a lot of pressure (Wyatt Oleff) and the cautious hypochondriac (Jack Dylan Grazer). One of the most important elements in putting this film together was making sure to hire a cast of kids with chemistry. Director Andy Muschietti succeeded, giving us a crew very similar to “The Goonies” except in a horror setting.

The other big element in “It” is the villain who was played to perfection in the 1990’s adaptation by Tim Curry. While Curry’s Pennywise will go down as one of the scariest clowns of all time, Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise is such a abominable monster, his performance may end up eclipsing Curry’s in the long run. From the first moment he appears on screen, he sends shivers up the spine that don’t let up until the end, and CGI effects allow him to contort and shape-change in a way that makes him far more intimidating.

Like the book, and even the 90’s miniseries, there are some very upsetting, horrific moments in “It”. The first on-screen death is difficult to watch due to the age of the victim and the character of Beverly endures some uncomfortable scenes considering her own father is molesting her. One character is forced to kill lambs with a bolt gun while another one has a mother who suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, thus inflicting her own kind of abuse on him. Then there’s the kid whose little brother is taken from him by Pennywise and every scene in which he deals with it is excruciatingly sad. Nevertheless, in all of this disturbing content, there is heart and hope in the story, especially at the end, but…

Fans of the book will be the first to realize this film is only half of the “It” story. The other half deals with the kids as adults who must return to Derry twenty-seven years later to destroy Pennywise once and for all when he re-emerges from his hibernation. This will happen in “It: Chapter Two” which has yet to be cast or even greenlit. I have no doubt it will be announced soon considering how “It” shattered the box office this weekend, but I suspect the studio is getting all of its ducks lined up in a row before giving it the official ‘go’ order. What’s more interesting, the filmmakers will have to cast adult versions of the Losers’ Club and fans are already wildly speculating about what venerable actors (40-somethings) might take over these roles. Big names have already been tossed around and if “It” continues to make money and become a bonafide blockbuster, there should be no trouble securing an A-list dream cast.

“It” may be the sleeper hit of the year. If you can stomach a good, scary and disturbing horror film, this is the one to beat.

Rating: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars

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