The WCA (World Clown Association) have recently gotten hot under the ruffled collar over the new film of Stephen King’s It, worried that the killer clown antagonist will damage their in-no-way-terrifying reputation.
The movie follows a group of kids who face a child-killing monster that’s terrorising the town of Derry in the guise of a clown called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). By splitting King’s 1000-page novel into two films, Warner Bros. have been penny-wise indeed. They’ve also found a director (Andy Muschietti) who’s seen the 1990 miniseries and seems intent on replicating several scenes shot-for-shot, resulting in an effective enough frightener that fails to carve out an identity for itself.
It stays true to the Stand By Me meets A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe of the original, but insists on making everything bigger for the sake of it. The bloody sink scene has more blood, the rock throwing scene has rock music, and there are way more clowns. Tim Curry’s Pennywise was disturbing because he seemed like a regular clown who had turned to chain-smoking and child-killing. Skarsgård’s just looks stupid, resembling Queenie from Blackadder II. There are scarier clowns on the news every day, both in and out of costume.
Even the kids’ personal issues have been exaggerated, and they were far from subtle in the first place. It’s like being beaten over the head with a 1000-page novel. The germaphobic one (Jack Dylan Grazer) is more germaphobic, the annoying one (Finn Wolfhard) is more annoying, and the Jewish one (Wyatt Oleff) is more Jewish. The black one (Chosen Jacobs) is given nothing to do, as the scholarly role has been given to the fat one (Jeremy Ray Taylor).
Alongside Sophia Lillis and Jaeden Lieberher, they all give strong performances. But this It crowd is altogether less charming than that of the miniseries, their constant swearing and “your mum” jokes making it hard to care about them as we truly did in the original. The film’s only variations from the miniseries and the novel are to its detriment. For some reason they confront the monster using a bolt gun rather than a slingshot, even though the point of the slingshot is surely that it’s something children might actually have.
All this amounts to watching the miniseries but with more swearing, more CGI and more ’80s nostalgia. Do you remember New Kids on the Block?! Or Molly Ringwald?! No, but I do remember the miniseries with great affection. This film won’t let us forget it.