Greg Eichelberger reviews 'It'

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

From its website entry, Rotten Tomatoes describes the New Line Cinema's horror thriller "It," directed by Andy Muschietti ("Mama"), as based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, has been "terrifying readers for decades."
Well, the 1986 book may have been scaring people, since it touches on King staples of the power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood, the ugliness lurking behind a façade of small-town quaintness, and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.
The problem was that bringing it to Hollywood at first was not very successful.
In 1990, the novel was adapted into a television miniseries starring Tim Curry (“Rocky Horror Picture Show”) as Pennywise the Clown, John Ritter (“Three’s Company”) as Ben Hanscom, Harry Anderson (“Night Court”) as Richie Tozier, Richard Masur as Stan Uris, Tim Reid (“WKRP In Cincinnati”) as Mike Hanlon, Annette O’Toole as Beverly Marsh and Richard “John-Boy” Thomas (“The Waltons”) as Bill Denbrough.
The miniseries was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and scripted by Lawrence D. Cohen and Wallace.
Now, Muschietti, with the assistance of writers Chase Palmer, Cary Joji Fukunaga “Beasts Of No Nation”) and Gary Dauberman (“Annabelle: Creation”), brings the story to the big screen and if opening numbers are a trend, ”It”should bring in boffo box office for a production of this genre.
When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine in the summer of 1989, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.
Here — as in the novel — George “Georgie” Bill Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott, ” Fear the Walking Dead TV series) is the first victim of Pennywise, the “Dancing (and murdering) Clown,” played by Sweden’s Bill Skarsgård (“Atomic Blonde”).
Georgie was the younger brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher, “The Book of Henry”) and Bill, a member of the town school’s “Loser’s Club,” is given a break from Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton, “The Dark Tower”) and his gang of bullies because of Georgie’s abduction and presumed killing.
Other kids in the club, however, including the pudgy Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip”), the bug-eyes Richie “Foul Mouth” Tozier (Finn Wolfhard, “Stranger Things” TV series), Hebrew school student Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”), home-schooled Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs, “Hawaii Five-0” TV series), the hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer, “Scales: Mermaids Are Real”) and the only female member, Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), are not so lucky.
After many more children have gone missing (without the town’s adults doing much about it), Ben does some research and discovers the city has been cursed for years.
Each of the children have their own visions of Pennywise, who exploits their fears with high-octane frights (brought to spine-tinging reality by the makeup of (Sarah Craig, “Warrior”), the art direction (Peter Grundy, “Pixels’) and especially the cinematography of Chung-hoon Chung (“The Handmaiden”).
These scenes are very well-done and the picture — overall — is quite impressive as a horror film (as difficult to create as a successful modern-day comedy). Also, any similarity between this movie and the 1986 classic "Stand By Me" is completely on purpose (considering King wrote both stories). There are certainly worse comparisons, though.
The kids’ acting is top-notch and their dialogue is also amazingly true to life, although the scribbler’s rely WAY too much on the “F” word. Also, do not count on Ben (who is the smartest kid in the loser's group and also the most sensitive and poetic) to get the girl at the end because, you see he's fat and Hollywood does NOT believe heavy-set people deserve ANY kind of a positive outcome.
But Skarsgård’s evil, high-pitched harlequin steals the show here and makes this a very satisfying entry for those who want to be scared out of their wits.
Grade: B