Review by Gordon Justesen
Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack
Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard
Director: Andy Muschietti
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Atmos TrueHD
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length 135 Minutes
Release Date: January 9, 2018
“Time to float.”
When one fondly remembers the works of Stephen King, his 1986 novel It is likely to be regarded as one of his greatest achievements, if not THE greatest. It is easily his most epic work to date, one that richly includes themes King has always excelled at crafting, particularly that of what we fear as children. That precise theme is used to awesome effect in the big screen adaptation, which is the absolute best horror movie offering of 2017!
It was first made into a TV mini-series in 1990, which was most famous for Tim Curry’s legendary turn as the primordial creature known as Pennywise the Clown. Just the look of him alone was enough to make your blood curdle. Other than that, there was nothing particularly remarkable about that adaptation, which did attempt the fully adapt King’s lengthy novel into a singular feature. This big screen version only covers half of the material (a second installment will cover the other half), and based on the strength of this first chapter, we’re already off to a damn good start.
Set in the town of Derry, Maine, the story follows a group of seven unlucky teen outcasts who have dubbed themselves “The Losers’ Club”. They include Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), a stumpy intelligent sort, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), a hyperactive germaphobe, Richie (Finn Wolfhard), the quick witted of the bunch, Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), who’s studying the synagogue. The two latest additions to the group are Mike (Chosen Jacobs), who’s homeschooled but becomes targeted by the same group of bullies who torment the rest, and Beverly (Sophia Lillis), who is constantly tormented by other girls for her alleged reputation as an overly promiscuous type.
The leader of the group is Bill (Jaden Lieberher), who hasn’t been able to shake off the effect of the murder of his younger brother, Georgie, the previous year. We see the young boy’s demise in a chilling opening that depicts his encounter with the devilishly looking Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) in a neighborhood sewer. Soon, Bill and the rest of The Losers’ Club are being terrorized by the same demonic force, as they learn that Derry has had a history of incidents involving missing or murdered children, all at the hands of Pennywise himself.
Just as it seemed virtually impossible for another actor to even come close to rivaling Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker, only to have Heath Ledger do that very thing, the same case has happened with Pennywise the Clown. Although Tim Curry’s take on it will be long remembered, Bill Skarsgard has put his own stamp on the role that will, I think, leave a longer and even more chilling effect. And this effect can be felt from pretty much our first glance at Skarsgard in the clown make up!
And for a group of basically newcomers, with the exception of Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame, all of the young actors here are remarkably superb. None of them feel like they’re turning in a typical kid-like performance but all appear to be naturally gifted actors individually. I see bright futures for all of them, especially Jack Dylan Grazer and Sophia Lillis, who really leave huge impressions!
It is potently effective as a horror movie, both in it’s rich character development and superbly executed scares. I am very hard to scare, and this movie has made me jump on more than one occasion with the very same scene. That alone should indicate the level of fright this one has to offer!
This is one beautifully shot film, and the Blu-ray presentation from Warner reflects that beautifully! Bright colors appear in absolute beautiful form, right down to Pennywise’s eye catching appearance. And the dark colors are just as effective, especially in some key sequences in a sewer and later an old, creepy house. Detail and depth are also impressively strong! Already a few weeks into the new year and we have one of the top looking releases of 2018!
Equally remarkable is the awesome audio quality. We are supplied both DTS HD and Dolby Atmos mixes, and both provide showstopping audio that is truly effective, especially in the more frightful moments. Dialogue delivery is as perfect as it can be, and music playback is tremendously strong as well!
We get a few feaurettes, each of which fun to explore. First off is “Pennywise Lives!”, which looks at how actor Bill Skarsgard went about preparing for the role, as well as performing. There’s also “The Losers’ Club” which looks at the young actors and how they bonded during filming. Lastly, and the best of the bunch, is “Author of Fear”, which features Stephen King reflecting on his original novel. Also featured are eleven Deleted and Extended Scenes.
It is the best horror movie release of 2017, as well as one of the very best Stephen King movie adaptations to date! Richly crafted and filled with unforgettable characters and moments of fright that are guaranteed to chill you to the bone! A must see for horror fans everywhere!