Cutting half of the story of “It” out and concentrating solely on the children’s tale might cause issues in the sequel tackling the less standalone adult half, but for this 2017 adaptation of “It”, it works wonders, giving way to a streamlined, coherent story that makes it look fairly effortless. Honing in more on the coming-of-age aspects than the horror, and sharpening and updating the humour was a great choice, and really pays off in giving the film the sort of Stephen King heart that adaptations like “Stand By Me” retain and certain other adaptations don’t.
Like the 1990 adaptation, the cast is inconsistent. Finn Wolfhard, fresh off a run on a very King-esque property, steals the show as loudmouth Richie. Both the writers and Wolfhard himself do a brilliant job of getting in legitimate laughs, and plenty of them. Sophia Lillis also does good work anchoring some shakier moments of the script.
The rest of the cast is less consistent, apart from Bill Skarsgård in the titular role. His performance is nothing like Tim Curry’s in the 1990 version, and all the better for it – stripping away the modern conception of goofy clowns, and instead focusing more on the otherworldly and mystic predatory terror of It was a great decision.
While some of the scares are very effective, they get a bit shakier and repetitive as they go on, particularly in the more stagey setpiece scenes. That sort of weariness doesn’t just go for the audience either, as it proves key to the children’s development in their relationship with It. I was amused by how director Andy Muschietti stages the final confrontation of the film, it was surprisingly literal (I could have done without some of the on-the-nose late remarks on the themes of the film, however).
Quibbles aside, it’s a remarkably strong King adaptation, meshing the coming-of-age story with horror effortlessly, and making smart, sensible changes to the source material. I hope the sequel can maintain what made this film work so well. I give it four red balloons, and a deadlight.