|Source: Warner Bros. Studios|
Stephen King is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror writers of all time. His seemingly endless list of best selling novels have always attracted Hollywood studios to make feature films of some of the classic stories- some were successful adaptations, others...not so much. The latest adaptation is "It" from Warner Bros. Studios, directed by Andy Muschietti. Early this year we had another King adaptation with The Dark Tower, released by Columbia Pictures, which was good but overall underwhelming (you can see my review of the film on the main page). It however is a film that hits on all cylinders and maybe one of the best film adaptations of Stephen King's library.
It tells the story of a group of young kids in the summer of 1989 who live in the small town of Derry, Maine. One of the kids, named Billy Denbrough (played by Jaeden Lieberher), had a younger brother named Georgie who went missing a year earlier (the circumstances of Georgie's disappearance are disturbingly described in the film's opening). Billy hangs out with his friends Richy (hilariously played by Finn Wolfhard), Stan (played by Wyatt Oleff ), Eddie (played by Jack Dylan Grazer), along with the summer's new additions to the group- Mike (played by Chosen Jacobs), Ben (played by Jeremy Ray Taylor), and the only girl of the group- Beverly (played by Sophia Lillis). Since Ben is new to the town of Derry, and initially has no friends when he first arrives, he hangs out in the library and reads up on the history of his new town. He discovers that there are many cases of missing people in the town, most particularly missing children , a fact that he shares with his new friends. Since Ben's brother is one of the missing children he decides that the gang (known as "The Loser's Group) should look into the mystery of the missing people, mostly with the hope of finding Georgie. Their journey leads them into many eerie places situations which include all of them running into the terrifyingly evil clown named Pennywise (masterfully played by Bill Skarsgard). The Loser's Group must stick together to try and defeat this horrific evil that is gripping their town and taking innocent lives.
This movie is a refreshing improvement from what you would usually expect from horror films. The characters are very engaging and this version of Pennywise the clown is truly maniacal and evil- just his presence in each scene makes the hairs on your neck stand upright (Tim Curry was good in the 1990 TV movie but this version takes it to a whole new level). Another commendable quality, for me, was how well the sequences depicting endangerment of children is handled. I have always been disturbed by scenes in films where children are tortured or brutally harmed (as I'm sure most people are as well). The content and scenes set in this movie could have very easily gone into the grotesque however they were handled extremely well by the director and editor Jason Ballantine (I will still make note of the exception of the aforementioned opening sequence). Even still, the intensity of the scenes where the kids are in true danger are never sacrificed. The film flows smoothly, the story develops itself well without jumping all over the place, and there are plenty of scenes that will make you jump out of your seat. For someone of my age group this film has a heart warming appeal to it because the main characters are, for the most part, the same age I was during the time the film takes place (summer of 1989). There was a concerted effort to authenticate the time and setting of the film and the people behind the scenes did a great job of bringing the essence of the 1980's into the movie. This was another wonderful aspect that added to the joy of seeing this movie (it is almost strange to make that statement considering it's a horror film). I would normally not associate the word "likable" with a horror film, but in this case it's an accurate term that applies.
I have never been the biggest fan of most films of the horror genre (notable exceptions such 1978's Halloween or 1980's The Shining have transcended the genre and are classics) but this is one time where the final product excels over most films of its kind. This was truly an engaging, engrossing, entertaining film that is packed with a solid balance of fun moments and gripping suspense. This will certainly be a rare occasion when I offer this much praise to a horror film and on that basis alone I highly recommend giving this movie a watch. Hopefully other horror films will borrow off of this entry and keep a good thing going.
Reel Rating (Out Of A Possible Four):