2017’s The Dark Tower was one of two Stephen King releases. Thankfully another adaptation followed one month after the actioner left a bad taste singed into the brain . September rolled around and Andy Muschietti’s eagerly anticipated remake of the two-part TV special more than made up for it.
When little Georgie goes missing in the quaint town of Derry, a band of merry, potty-mouthed heroes bind together in the midst of summer to source why he, and an array of other unsuspecting youths, have gone AWOL. The Losers, the gang title themselves, are pitted against an evil, never subjected to one entity but the incarnation of what frightens each member most. And let’s not forget about the town super dick Henry Bowers who’s hot on the Losers heels to enforce some good old-fashioned racist, homophobic and general bullying.
Andy Muschietti’s incarnation of IT is essentially two films. One of which is the blatant horror aspect to which we can come to shortly. The former, however, is derived wholesomely from Stephen King’s very best, Stand By Me. Whilst it’s certainly Stand By Me ala 21st century, despite obvious setting differences, the writing here is enough to be adapted to the culture of today, with plenty of in-jokes like “Who invited Molly Ringwald into the group?” Thus leading onto the casting.
Jaeden Lieberher, that kid from St. Vincent and Midnight Special, is the pack leader, Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard is Richie ‘Pottymouth’ Tozier, Sophie Lillis is Ringwald’s impressive counterpart Beverley and Jack Dylan Grazer is Eddie Kaspbrak (featuring a fannypack or two) to name just half of the Losers club who ignite on screen together as truly one of the greatest casting decisions of the year. This group will carry you throughout IT’s entirety, from family woes to adolescent flirting to fighting a soul-sucking entity. It’s old -fashioned but heavily successful, proving nostalgic and incredibly likable as these kids climb aboard their trusty bikes to start their adventures into demon ass-whooping.
These characters feel richly developed, much more so compared to the original, and even room for further – for example, a heightened understanding of Bill (Lieberher) and his family’s emotional distress to Georgie’s disappearance is sorely lacking. The approach to the group’s relationships comes at a cost however; it does steal the show, mostly.
Luckily though, IT stands as a solid thriller. Credit cannot be made without mentioning the impressive turn from Bill Skarsgard (son of Stellan, brother of Alexander). Costume or make-up in tow doesn’t create a character, what Bill has done here is bring forth a horror icon stuck in the early 90s and essentially transformed Pennywise, the Dancing Clown into a blood-curdling creation of modern day, mainstream horror as it stands. This performance is dedicated and a sure fire go ahead for what Part II has to offer to audiences. Whilst Pennywise works best in the shadows, there’s something about the way Skarsgard has tuned his monstrous creation to walk, talk and emote that sends the willies.
Muschietti doesn’t particularly shy away from any necessary material – some may argue there’s a pivotal orgy scene noted from the novel missing, but I still somehow don’t feel it particularly needed – and that’s his greatest aim and success. Muschietti has successfully brought IT to the modern crowd, proving it with Box Office numbers and the immediate demand for Part II. My only worry is a casting alternate for Part II may hinder the overall project as I firmly believe this group is one in a million.
Dir: Andy Muschietti
Scr: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff
Prd: Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch
DOP: Chung-hoon Chung
Runtime: 135 minutes