WEEKEND WEB: IT really is something special

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FILM REVIEW: IT (15)

SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: JAEDEN LIEBERHER, SOPHIA LILLIS, BILL SKARSGARD, JEREMY RAY TAYLOR, FINN WOLFHARD, JACK DYLAN GRAZER, WYATT OLEFF, CHOSEN JACOBS, NICHOLAS HAMILTON, STUART HUGHES & JACKSON ROBERT SCOTT

RUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 15 MINS

DIRECTOR: ANDY MUSCHIETTI

Very rarely is a horror remade this well – as IT proves to be king of the box-office.

The record-breaking opening weekend for a horror in America ($123m) is well justified as this blockbuster remake of the cult 1990 Tim Curry-led mini-series – based on Stephen King’s popular novel – doesn’t clown around by unleashing a psychological horror that undoubtedly puts it up there with the year’s standout films.

It’s kind of like Stand By Me (or even The Goonies or Super 8) crossed with A Nightmare on Elm Street, as a group of kids – tagged by the town bullies (led by Nicholas Hamilton’s unhinged Henry Bowers) as the ‘The Losers’ Club’ – get haunted by visions of a terrifying entity, that usually takes up the guise of Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard).

This so-called club are a group of outcast early teens, led by Jaeden Lieberher’s stuttering Bill – and including the likes of Sophia Lillis’ ‘tom boy’ Beverly and Jeremy Ray Taylor’s lovably chunky Ben – who team up to fight against this shape-shifting being that is responsible for the disappearance of children in their hometown of Derry, Maine, on America’s East Coast, in the Summer of ’89.

Bill himself has one distinct connection to ‘IT’ – as it becomes clear the monster feeds on the town’s ‘fearful’ children every 27 years – after his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) mysteriously went missing down the town’s drainage system (which proves to be the perfect cover for Pennywise) nine months earlier, leaving him racked with guilt.

And through numerous stand-out set pieces – Georgie, the kids’ visions, Henry’s anarchy, Bev’s abusive father and Pennywise’s psychotic lunges – director Andy Muschietti (Mama) rarely fails to keep the cinema-goer glued to the screen as this pushes the boundaries of what a ‘15’ rated film can be.

That, alongside some tremendous performances from the child actors (particularly Ray Taylor), an engaging storyline that actually makes you care for the characters, and Skarsgard’s chilling turn as Pennywise, it’s hard to see how this could have been done a lot better.

It actually plays out more satisfyingly as a psychological thriller than an all-out horror – there are a couple of ‘jump out of your seat’ moments but it’s more what is implied that is the real winner – and only one or two pacing issues, and a couple of unintentionally funny ‘scary’ scenes, stops this short of being a masterpiece.

With this being chapter one of a two-parter, any adult actor worth their salt will want to be in the sequel as the penny will undoubtedly have dropped that IT is something special – but it was the kids who reigned supreme this time out. Pennywise proves that laughter isn’t always the best medicine, but tense, well-thought out scares truly are – as this raises the bar for the genre.

Rating: 4/5

Gavin Miller