Cert 15 135mins Stars 3
The previous adaptation of a Stephen King novel I had to endure was the astonishingly dull sci fi bomb, The Dark Tower.
This new version of his famous horror story is excellent in many ways except in the most important, it fails to scare.
A superb coming of age take ruined by the frequent inclusion of supernatural silliness. Everything would be much improved by removing the stupid monster.
Pennywise is a psychopathic spirit who takes the form of a freak show circus clown who feeds on fear but isn’t terrible effective in tormenting his young victims.
Tim Curry played Pennywise in a memorable 1990 TV miniseries, here we have a very physical performance by Bill Skarsgard who indulges in much alarming leaping. I kept worrying he’d put his back out.
There is handsome production design and first rate performances from the younger cast members. Jaeden Lieberher plays Bill, who leads an adolescent band of social misfits on a search to find his younger brother whose been missing for a year.
Self styled as ‘the losers club’, their camaraderie is wonderfully believable, sweet and funny. Sophia Lillis is tremendously affecting as the token girl member.
Though sinks explode with blood, mattresses ooze gunk and severed heads bob about in sewers, the ordinary real life dangers facing the teens are far more scary.
Bullies, beatings, abusive parents and the struggles of talking to the opposite sex carry more emotional weight than all the spooky shenanigans.
All the best moments call to mind the superior King adaption, Stand By Me, such as when The Losers Club are tormented on their journey around town by a car driving bunch of high school hoodlums.
Three writers are credited on the script which draws heavily on King’s excellent ear for dialogue, strong characterisation, and stresses the importance of loyalty and friendship.
However the threat of a sequel is the most terrifying on screen moment they can conjure.