directed by Andy Muschietti
(New Line Cinemas, 2017)

Pennywise the Dancing Clown is back in this latest adaptation of Stephen King's massive novel It. And he'll scare the hell out of you.

Although the novel is set in the 1960s, this adaptation opens in the '80s -- 1989, to be exact. In the town of Derry, Maine, a group of outcast kids is being terrorized by a menacing supernatural presence that reveals itself to each of them in different ways. King created a villain who isn't just a villain; "It" is the epitome of everything humans fight against, everything that lives in the darkness. Ghosts. Spiders. Child-murdering clowns. That's what ancient demons do: play upon the fears of their victims.

As for the intrepid band of monster fighters, it's The Goonies meets Nightmare on Elm Street. In film and on paper, it's always King's characters that ring truest. It's as much about the camaraderie as the horror. The children have their own distinctive personalities and all of the actors deliver quality performances. The film focuses as much on their development from children into adults as it does on the attacks by Pennywise or sadistic bullies. One minute they are in a fight for their lives, the next minute having fun by the lake. The sense of humor is terrific, and the witty banter is drop-dead funny. The group goes through all the usual milestones: coming together, breaking up, then re-teaming to take down the enemy.

Bill Skarsgard shines as the shapeshifting beast that wakes every 27 years to feast on the town's children. It's not the typical jump scare, fake-out loud noise horror film. It's an atmospheric, chilling, relentlessly unsettling hellride into the darkest places of a quiet little town with a beast in its sewers. The ending is put together in a way that makes sense well enough to create a perfect space for a sequel.

It delivers big lessons: if you choose to run away from your fears, they will grow stronger. But once you face them, you can empower yourself to continue the fight. You might not win the first or second time but you will win, eventually. And often, not without help. That's what friends are for.

It's fun, it's creepy and it's heart-warming, not to mention exhilaratingly scary. It definitely floats far above the original.

review by
Mary Harvey

7 October 2017

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