If a generation of people grew up with a strange fear of clowns, you can bet that Stephen King’s IT and the subsequent 1990 mini-series are to blame.
Fast forward 27 years (that number won’t be lost on fans) and Pennywise the demonic killer clown is back to terrorise another generation, this time on the big screen.
Directed by Andy Muschietti, this is a much more adult version of King’s 1986 horror novel – and manages to capture the same 80s vibe that the excellent Netflix series Stranger Things seamlessly brought back into fashion last year.
Weighing in with a 15 rating, this version of IT is also able to take the language, themes and brutality to the next level, following the example of the excellent Deadpool (2016).
Will it terrify you? Probably not. But IT is one of the better horror movies of recent times.
Set in 1989, IT tells the story of “The Losers’ Club” – seven children who find themselves at the centre of a dreadfully mysterious situation in the small town of Derry, Maine.
With the authorities and adults seemingly doing nothing about the various disappearances of young people in the town, the kids are forced to step up to the plate after all witnessing vivid visions of their greatest fears.
Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) and Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) all come to realise that a clown is terrorising their town after each having visceral experiences at IT’s hands.
They must decide whether to ignore the situation (like seemingly everybody else), or rise up and fight their fears (I mean, who wouldn’t want to seek out a killer clown?)
And what of IT? Played by, Bill Skarsgård, Pennywise the clown is a menacing figure right from the off.
Introduced in a shocking sequence that sees Bill’s brother Georgie taken, he is both comedic (try not to laugh during his dance scenes) and scary (my favourite jump scare was the garage scene) in equal measure.
Personally, I didn’t find him scary enough to check under my bed when I got home, but it’s certainly a strong showing from Skarsgård.
The performances of the members of the Losers’ Club are all strong, too.
Kaspbrak’s Eddie, whose mother has ensured is a massive hypochondriac, does an amazing job of looking suitably terrified, while Wolfhard’s Richie (of Stranger Things fame) hogs all of the best lines.
You’ll also feel incredibly sorry for Lillis’ Beverly. Her abusive father might just pip Pennywise in the despicable stakes.
Likewise, try not to feel sympathy for Taylor’s Ben, who – as the chubby new kid at school – suffers more than most at the hands of a group of bullies, led by Nicholas Hamilton’s dreadful Henry Bowers.
At 2.15hrs, IT is on the lengthy side for this kind of movie. I’m a fan of films being as long as they need to be, but it does drag a little.
You could also argue that giving each member of The Losers’ Club an individual experience with Pennywise veers close to being repetitive, but I felt like it worked pretty well.
Not quite the scare fest it was billed as, IT succeeds because it’s more than a horror film. With comic relief (take a bow Richie) and characters you’ll like, it’s a very good take on one of the genre’s most fabled monsters.
Now, who is up for chapter two? I know I am.
Voice Verdict: 8.5/10 (reviewed at Boston’s West End Cinema)
+ Great characters
+ Skarsgård is very menacing
+ As many laughs as there are scares
+ Sets up a sequel
– Does drag a little
Boston’s West End Cinema (Fri, Sept 15 to Thurs, Sept 21)
**KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (15)
Noon (Sun), 2.40pm (Sat/Sun), 5.40pm (daily), 8.30pm (daily)
**VICTORIA AND ABDUL (PG)
Noon (Sat/Sun), 2.40pm (Sat/Sun), 5.40pm (daily), 8.15pm (daily)
**THE JUNGLE BUNCH (U)
12.30pm (Sat), 2.50pm (Sat/Sun), 5pm (Tue/Wed), 5.30pm (not Sun/Tue/Wed)
AMERICAN ASSASSIN (18)
1.30pm (Sat), 2.40pm (Sun), 5.40pm (not Thu/Sat), 6.30pm (Sat), 8.15pm (not Sat), 8.45pm (Sat)
2pm (Sat), 5.15pm (not Tue/Wed), 8.20pm (daily)
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (15)
8pm (Fri/Sun/Mon), 8.10pm (Sat)
THE EMOJI MOVIE (U)
2D –12.20pm (Sunday)
Wedneday 11.30am – IT (15)
Tuesday 5.15pm –IT (15)
**DENOTES FREE LIST SUSPENDED