New Line Cinema’s horror thriller “IT,” directed by Andrés Muschietti, is based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, which has been terrifying readers for decades. When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.

“IT” stars Bill Skarsgård (“Allegiant,” TV’s “Hemlock Grove”) as the story’s central villain, Pennywise. An ensemble of young actors also star in the film, including Jaeden Lieberher (“Midnight Special”), Jeremy Ray Taylor (“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”), Sophia Lillis (“37”), Finn Wolfhard (TV’s “Stranger Things”), Wyatt Oleff (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), Chosen Jacobs (upcoming “Cops and Robbers”), Jack Dylan Grazer (“Tales of Halloween”) and Nicholas Hamilton (“Captain Fantastic”).


Going against the odds perhaps, considering the mixed results of previous Stephen King adaptations, but the new version of IT, or half of it at least, is surprisingly very good.

Updating the book's childhood summer section from the 50s to the currently ever so popular 80s milieu of arcade machines, Amblin movies and New Kids on the Block (made only slightly confusing by the casting of Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard in a vaguely similar role), the film kicks off in a surprisingly shocking fashion with the tragic fate of Georgie Denbrough at the hands of a sadistic clown that feeds on the fears of the children of the small Maine town of Derry, until a group of bullied kids led by Georgie's older brother Bill get together to fight back.

From that opening onwards the film juggles nostalgic laughs and chilling scares with skill, though there are occasionally moments perhaps where the filmmakers allow the humour to undermine the horror. When it gets dark however, it gets really dark.. A late scene involving a slaughterhouse bolt gun is particularly grim. But there's also a lot of fun scares along the way too, just in case that makes it sound too much. Director Andy Muschietti certainly takes a more effective and memorable stab at horror than his 2013 debut Mama. Plus it looks fantastic thanks to regular Park Chan-wook cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung.

The young cast are very impressive, giving the audience a Loser's Club to care for amid the scares. Plus the typically crude infantile banter between the teens is amusingly portrayed.
While Bill Skarsgård is suitably creepy and otherworldly as Pennywise the Clown (I wonder how many people going to the cinema this summer to see this and Atomic Blonde realise the same actor appears in both). It's possibly not as iconic a portrayal as Tim Curry's in the 90s TV movie, but it's an effective turn nonetheless. The various contortions that Pennywise's body goes through during the film is also very unsettling. An effective and striking mix of CGI and practical make-up certainly help sell this particular aspect of the character.

Overall the film is a whole lot of macabre fun that captures the familiar feel of the typical small US towns of 80s cinema in much the same way Super 8 and Stranger Things did, but in an even more bloody and brutal fashion that should satisfy most horror fans. However it goes without saying that those with Coulrophobia may want to give it a wide berth.

A thrilling and satisfying conclusion also sets things up for the next chapter. It will certainly be interesting to see how it deals with the grown up characters in what will presumably be a contemporary setting. For now Chapter One makes for a very decent and enjoyable start

By Kevin Knapman

IT (15)

2h 15m

Director: Andrés Muschietti
Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Bill Skarsgård

UK Release: Friday 8th September 2017

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