It’s opening night and our seats are pre-assigned. There is even an usher, leading us to our seats, and there are a lot of us. The whole movie theatre is packed—it’s Friday night in Scarborough and you can feel everyone, book-fans and film-fans alike, psych themselves up to watch the inevitable: a demon clown who lives in a sewer terrorize a bunch of 13-year-olds.
To be fair, the infamous demon clown was first introduced to traumatize audiences a couple decades ago when Stephen King released ‘IT’, the terrifying book on which the movie is based. The film, a much more updated version, is directed by Andreas Muschietti and filmed, funnily enough, just outside of Toronto. The journey from book to screen was a tremulous one, jumping from director to director and almost falling through at the last minute.
Muschietti, a relative newcomer, took up the project and rewrote most of the old script that producers (and fans) had been expecting for the film. The rewrites, I’ll have to say, probably did the movie some good. It is a horror movie (there are some real jumpscares the first time) but what Muschietti also succeeds in doing is realize a bizarre-yet-authentic coming of age story with a modern freshness (badly needed), surprising humour, and a whole lot of heart.
Muschietti’s adaptation very much narrows the sprawling story-line of the original King novel. He changes key details of the book but, I’ll argue, in a justified way. Muschietti is making a film, not a book, and his breakdown of the story into a narrative manifests the original story’s essence rather than outlandish plot points. Muschietti is doing exactly what I think an adaptation calls for—he is reimagining a text on screen and that means narrative changes need to be made. He does this all, for the most part, without compromising the book’s integrity and original intentions.
Besides Muschietti, his cast is one to look out for. What is perhaps most enjoyable to watch is the kids’ almost uncanny timing for comedy and their easy chemistry with each other. If I was to pick out any performances to especially look out for (although everyone was amazing), I would have to pick Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, and Jackson Robert Scott as Georgie Denbrough. The actors portray incredible talent (Jackson Robert Scott is eight years old, by the way) and their performances definitely stood out in my mind.
For those who are fans of the TV mini-series, never fear, the 2017 version of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (originally played by Tim Curry) is a far cry from the 1990s version. Bill Skarsgård embodies the character with his own twist and delivers an unnerving performance that is entirely his own.
For those who are interested, Part 2 of IT is also green lit to be produced in the coming year or so, this time with a focus on the Losers as adults. IT deserves a place not only in the King movie universe but also within horror cinema as a whole. It is a film that knows how to scare you but also has an overall investment in character and the pains (and horror) involved when we’re on the journey to growing up.
By Meagan Gove