As a lifetime Stephen King fan, it's always sad to see how poorly many of his novels have translated to the screen.
Which makes it all the more enjoyable when you experience a superb adaption like IT.
For King "Constant Readers" like me, it's a 2 hour plus brilliant rendering of one of King's best books.
Like "Stand by Me", our story revolves around a collection of young people in the fictional town of Derry, where the adult murder rate is high and the missing child statistics are startling.
In the film's opening scene, we first meet the sheer evil behind those numbers, Pennywise the Clown. His savage encounter with young Georgie sets the tone for what's ahead, graphic, bloody and scary.
The band of bullied kids that comes together to fight the dark forces is comprised of one of the best ensembles of young actors I’ve seen in a very long time.
Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) is Bill, whose brother Georgie’s disappearance drives the story. Jeremy Ray Taylor is Ben, the new kid at school with a big heart. Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) is Richie (Beep Beep Richie!) who faces terror with plenty of jokes, providing a lot of the terrific humor that translates so well from page to screen.
Best of all is young Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, the lone girl in the Loser’s Club. She’s so good that you feel like you’re watching the birth of a major star. Her quietest moments with Bill are just as good as the most terrifying moments of the film.
And there are plenty of very scary scenes. This isn’t the cheap thrills of jump scares and loud bangs; these are well-crafted, slow builds that payoff with some chilling moments.
The closing frames of the out-of-control slide projector scene are chilling and really horrifying. The entire finale sequence inside the house of Pennywise is really well crafted and will make any King fan smile in perfect execution of some classic scenes.
At the center of the film is Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde) as Pennywise. With incredible makeup, a voice that ranges from enticing to horrifying and just the right amount of realistic CGI for the best set of jaws since Aliens, his Pennywise is just plain scary as hell.
Pennywise knows what scares you and manifests himself in that form, bringing plenty of chills as we learn what each of these young people are truly scared of and face it up close.
The writing is very good, which I’ll credit a great deal to Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) and the brilliance of one of King’s best massive novels. The photography by Chung-hoon Chung (Oldboy) is terrific, painting a disturbing small town in a dingy palette, while Pennywise’s red balloons POP off the screen.
This is a very good horror film that I can’t wait to see again. The great news is that PART 2, which will detail these same characters as adults dealing with the return of Pennywise, is heading into production soon, based on the biggest September box office opening in the history of the movies for IT. The novel flashed back and forth from them as kids to adults, but the story structure here works very well, telling just the first half of the story and leaving you hungry for more, while still offering plenty of closure for this chapter.
GREAT young cast, plenty of scares and a truly disturbing villain. Like all of Pennywise victims, IT floats to the top of King screen adaptions and gets an A+.