I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Connor Bynum // Film Critic
Rated R, 135 minutes.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer and Nicholas Hamilton
Director Andy Muschietti delivers the best Stephen King adaptation in years
One would think we’ve gotten to the point where Stephen King adaptations have grown into their own subgenre in filmmaking. There are superhero movies, post-apocalyptic/dystopian teen-melodrama — the list goes on and on. Then you have Stephen King movies. As it goes with pretty much any classification in film, there are winners and there are losers. After the recent release of THE DARK TOWER came crashing down, fans of King’s work can rest easy: IT is no loser.
For those unfamiliar with King’s 1,138 page epic (average length of The Bible is 1,200 pages, so don’t kick yourself too hard if you haven’t read it), seven kids spend their summer vacation investigating the mysterious disappearance of multiple kids throughout their hometown of Derry, while struggling to cope with what they each fear the most. The leader of the endearingly named “Losers’ Club.” Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) can’t help but feel responsible for the loss of his younger brother, and pushes his friends to their limits as they venture deeper and deeper down the nightmarish rabbit hole.
Believe it or not, many viewers may find themselves laughing more often than being frightened. That’s not to say the movie isn’t terrifying, because it absolutely is. But these kids simply steal the show. Director Andy Muschietti (MAMA) expertly directs his child actors to each give memorable performances. The dynamic between the film’s seven best friends is believable from start to finish, whether it’s their constant banter about nailing each other’s moms or their more serious infighting when things start to get real. Make no mistake, despite starring children, this movie is not for kids.
Right out of the gate, we are introduced to the main antagonist, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, played to absolute perfection by Bill Skarsgård (ATOMIC BLONDE). However, we soon find out he is more than just a demonic circus performer, but an entity that can take the form of his victim’s deepest fears. Fans of HARRY POTTER may know this as a “Boggart,” a.k.a. the “Riddikulus” exercise from PRISONER OF AZKABAN. Without delving into spoiler territory, Pennywise is simply brutal in the ways he terrorizes his victims. From contorting his body beyond recognition to more subtle ticks like never blinking his perpetually off-center glowing eyes, this villain is the stuff nightmares are made of.
But what kind of King adaptation would this be without multiple layers of villains? As if Pennywise wasn’t enough, we quickly find out that he Losers already have plenty of real things to fear: dealing with sociopathic bullies, sexually abusive parents, and talking to girls. The main theme of the film floats clearly: we are all at our most vulnerable when we feel alone.
Featuring stellar performances across the board, haunting cinematography, and expertly edited scares, IT is the best Stephen King adaptation in nearly 20 years. If you weren’t already afraid of clowns, IT just might make you want to join the club.
IT opens nationwide on Friday.