It

 

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In the latest adaptation of Stephen King's massive novel, the young victims of a demonic clown called Pennywise are well played by a fresh young cast. And they deserve a better movie.

   
It

The problem with Beverly: Sophia Lillis

 

Poor Beverly. She’s unsettled by her first period, is the butt of brutal victimization at school and at home is being sexually abused by her father. Then the sink in her bathroom disgorges a torrent of blood that almost knocks her out. But she’s not the only 13-year-old in Derry, Maine, who’s having a hard time of it. There’s the new fat boy who is carving practice for the local bullies, there’s the kid suffering from a string of allergies (and an overbearing mother), the black boy who’s recently lost both his parents in a fire, the rabbi’s son who is failing to live up to his father’s expectations, the short-sighted, acrophobic Richie and Billy, who not only suffers from a terrible stutter but is grieving for his little brother who disappeared in mysterious circumstances a year earlier. What the children don’t know is than an evil, shape-shifting clown is picking off the younger residents of Derry, and in particular those in need of more than a little TLC.

 

What with the sabre-rattling of North Korea, the devastation wreaked by Harvey and Irma, the earthquake in Mexico and the violence in Myanmar, one can understand why audiences would want to flock to the multiplex for some escapism. Actually, with 2017 choked with more than forty remakes, reboots and sequels, it has proved to be a disastrous year at the box-office, with the lowest attendance recorded at US cinemas since the summer of 1992 – 25 years ago. A lot of optimism, then, is riding on the perceived commercial viability of this Stephen King adaptation, with expectations of a $70 million boost to the American box-office. Well, Andy Muschietti's It is itself a remake, King’s novel having previously been made into a 1990 American-Canadian miniseries. The new edition ends with the hopeful title of It – Chapter One and in all likelihood there will be a follow-up as horror films tend to gather commercial momentum thanks to the ancillary impetus of TV, streaming and DVD exposure. Besides, It cost a relatively modest $35 million (not counting the marketing budget).

 

It’s a shame, though, that Muschietti's version is such a generic affair, with a preponderance of overblown music and a clown that is as much a product of CGI as Bill Skarsgård’s knowing performance. Better are the child actors who recall a ragbag of Brat Pack lookalikes, from Jaeden Lieberher's Culkinesque Billy to Jack Dylan Grazer’s C. Thomas Howell-lite Eddie. Best of all, though, is Sophia Lillis as a spunky Molly Ringwald clone, complete with red hair and freckles. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this talented young actress. There’s also an air of Stand by Me about the film (itself a Stephen King adaptation), albeit with a lot riper dialogue. However, the gruesome set pieces draw far too liberally on familiar horror tropes, sometimes to laughable effect. Far more repugnant are the real-life circumstances of the young protagonists, with enough unpleasantness to tap into at least one phobia of any given audience member. Enjoy.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Bill Skarsgård, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott, Stephen Bogaert, Stuart Hughes, Geoffrey Pounsett, Mollie Jane Atkinson.

 

Dir Andy Muschietti, Pro Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg and Barbara Muschietti, Screenplay Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, Ph Chung-hoon Chung, Pro Des Claude Paré, Ed Jason Ballantine, Music Benjamin Wallfisch, Costumes Janie Bryant.

 

New Line Cinema/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Lin Pictures/KatzSmith Productions-Warner Bros.

134 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 8 September 2017. Cert. 15.