Every twenty seven years, Pennywise the dancing clown comes back to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine. In 1990, the miniseries following Stephen King’s novel was released on television and paved way for later TV movie adaptations of not only King’s works, but other miniseries as well. The miniseries of the film piqued my curiosity and I picked up the novel, but never found it in me to finish (this will be semi-relevant later as I go on) and so I do not have that connection, but I do have nostalgia with the original. Hearing about the remake, I had my doubts- it’s not easy remaking a classic- but seeing the trailer, I was hooked, and eagerly awaiting the release.
Now IT is out, and I have never loved a remake more.
It’s no secret that there is a stark difference in portrayals when it comes to the beloved Pennywise, but when it comes to the horror genre it can be tough to compete with past actors. In the last ten years, horror icons such as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees have been replaced in reboots of classic pieces of horror cinema, and critics were not all welcoming. In 1990, IT the face of Pennywise was none other than Tim Curry, and much like past characters, he made the character iconic. With big clown shoes to fill, the new Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård ( Hemlock Grove ) not only met expectations but exceeded in portraying the Pennywise I had expected when I was much younger.
I first watched IT around the time I was entering kindergarten, and upon first viewing it was not scary nor was it creepy or unnerving. The only part that gravely impacted me and sent some sort of unease through me was the scene where he spoke to the “Lucky Seven” through the book. Other than that, it was a tame movie compared to others. Seeing the trailer for the remake, I was left with expectations I was prepared to drop up until I heard the reviews, and thus to contain my excitement walking through the door.
The shift between Skarsgård and Curry’s performance reminds me of the change between Haley and Englund’s performances, only done well. While Curry delivered a creepy and animated Pennywise, Skarsgård does that as well, and then some. From the voice to the odd shifting eyes, Skarsgård makes Pennywise out to be the clown we all feared in 2016. His mannerisms are quick yet sly, and the line delivery of lines adds animation that the original Pennywise had as well while covering basis that it lacked. It was a good touch, as well, being able to see more of Pennywise in his natural environment (the sewers) because the 1990 miniseries neglected that peak into the underworld, and not curiosity is cured.
It was the best type of scary and creepy- without a lot of gore. IT used anticipation to lure the audiences attention in and makes it impossible to look away out of sheer curiosity, and when it does reach the jump scare, it has that same effect of a haunted house around Halloween time which was the most uncomfortable of them all- because in those, you cant get out until its over. There was one scare in particular which was taken out on Mikey that did this especially, and there was a moment where I felt physically ill watching it, but for all good reasons. This all being said, the best word to describe it would come from a friend that saw it prior and was giving his thoughts- it was uncomfortable as opposed to scary. It had it’s moments, but more so there was something uneasy and sickening about watching the scare scenes that just made my stomach churn.
There were certain aspects that the movie touched on better than the miniseries as well. For instance, in the movie we are able to see more of the children as opposed to taking it for face value. I did not expect to see as much of Beverly, Patrick, or Henry as I had walking into the movie, but was pleasantly surprised with the amount of screentime each of them got. SPOILER: I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing how Pennywise used Henry to his advantage, instead of him simply being the bully. It didn’t feel like we were missing any actors, and everyone had their ending.
With regards to the children as actors, I have to give them praise for their performance and delivery. It is hard not to watch a movie and root for the child to “just go left!”, “don’t open it!”, “Get AWAY from the sink!”, but the cast that played the Losers Club as well as Henry and his gang all reacted in a way that's appropriate and understandable. The humor in the film meshed well and did not feel forced, but among all things to come out of IT, I walked away with not an ounce of second hand embarrassment. Having filmed a child or two for a P.S.A assignment and viewed a couple dozen movies, it comes from my experience that child actors can be hard to work with, and even harder to watch simply due to inexperience or they are just plain awkward. The cast of the Losers Club was done well enough that even the humor was not too off putting. A thanks can also be said to the scriptwriters, who did a fantastic job at appeasing that immature humor of young boys without being too uncomfortable to watch. It all felt realistic which aided towards my sympathy for the characters.
With all this said, is IT the remake better, worse, or about the same as the original miniseries?
The IT remake is a phenomenal horror movie, it is a horror movie that is best watched in theaters or with the lights off with a cuddle buddy, and does achieve the scares that the original lacked. The original is just the- original. It is the classic movie to watch in a marathon, much more tamed but still holds appeal to horror viewers. I would say that the remake is indeed better than the original, but the original serves it’s purpose as a film classic, and so it is still a must watch regardless of if it is scary or not. The two are not equals, but there is room for both in the cinematic world. As I sit here, I sit with the novel at my right hand awaiting for a dent to be made, and it won’t be long until it’s finished.