Spoilers may follow
It’s been said many times that there are too many remakes of films that were good the way they were, and that the movies that should be remade are the ones that didn’t live up to their potential as well as they should have. With this in mind, Stephen King’s It is a story that could have used another adaptation. The 1990 version did have a great performance from Tim Curry, but it did feel lacking, especially as an adaptation.
2017’s It isn’t a completely faithful translation of Stephen King’s text; the childhoods of the “Loser’s Club”, the group of friends that battle the evil Pennywise (here played by Bill Skarsgard) now takes place in 1989, the book had Pennywise taunt the children from a photo book where in this movie he emerges from a slide projection, etc. There are, however, scenes from the book that didn’t make it the first time around, such as Pennywise’s leper form and the haunted house he lurks in, both of these brought to the screen with macabre energy.
Skarsgard is a worthy successor for Tim Curry, though he plays a rather different Pennywise. Curry’s Pennywise was very enjoyable to watch, but Skarsgard successfully makes the character a lot more sinister and sadistic. Like the 1990 version, Pennywise appears in a sewer grate to tempt little Georgie to come down with him, but the 2017 rendition gives the scene a little more time to be effective and Skarsgard’s Pennywise is better at feigning a cheerful clown than Curry’s. I could have done without Pennywise first appearing as a pair of Trap Door-esque disembodied eyes, and actually seeing him bite off Georgie’s arm.
Most of Pennywise’s illusions in this movie are interesting and eerie, like when he dances around like a puppet, but sometimes his horror does come off as a bit too obvious. There’s a Dead Silence type room full of clown dolls – one of them has a head turn around by itself – and the tried-and-true disembodied voice singing a nursery rhyme (not as effective as when the 1990 version had as Pennywise’s theme a circus tune that would sound innocent and fun in another context).
Where this film really excels is when it shows us that sometimes humans can be the real monsters. Henry Bowers the bully and the abusive father of Loser’s Club’s sole female member Beverly are both truly despicable characters and contribute to some of the film’s most chilling scenes.
Most remakes feel unnecessary, but 2017’s It is a fine addition to the wide world of Stephen King adaptations, and makes one want to see a sequel.