***Spoiler free ***
I wasn’t looking forward to the 2017 film version of It.
I’ve read the sprawling Stephen King novel many times, and always felt it was just too complex to be boiled down into a movie. I’ve never been a fan of the 1990s miniseries (mainly, it is true, because I couldn’t get my hands on it).
I didn’t see how there could be anything good about an even shorter screen adaptation, especially one directed by Andy Muschietti, who made the deeply disappointing Mama (2013).
It’s lovely to be wrong. Pretty much everything about the film is perfect. There’s not a single bad performance – the child actors are all brilliant. The cinematography is stunning, capturing that sweltering summer King wrote about so vividly. And Pennywise. Oh boy, Pennywise.
At the heart of It is Pennywise, the most malicious clown in literary history. When I read the novel as a teenager, a strange ecstasy used to come over me during the Pennywise interludes. He was a kind of fear-poem that sneaked around every logical barrier and … I don’t know… scared me and yet gave me something I needed.
It was Pennywise I was least looking forward to in the film adaptation. Because how could anyone capture that strange celebratory malevolence? Like I said, I haven’t seen the miniseries, but Tim Curry never looked particularly convincing to me.
Bill Skarsgard, however, is a revelation. He’s helped out a little with special effects – in particular, they play around with his size so that he’s just slightly too large. But on the whole it’s all Bill, pulling faces and throwing shapes and delivering his lines with a terrifying mad energy that actually does the book justice. Each time he appears, the film comes to joyous, terrifying life, just like the book used to do.
To my surprise, the next day Pennywise stayed with me. I felt as if he was following me around the streets. It was a good feeling.