With character archetypes plucked right out of the likes of Stand By Me and The Goonies, deftly blended with action-packed horror, It is a pitch perfect ’80s throwback.
It’s The Goonies, in particular, that It hits upon most often. The sleepy, tree-lined American town of Derry brings memories of the Goon Docks flooding back. The leads, a relatable group of kids known as the Loser’s Club mirror the characters of Richard Donner’s classic; Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) the brave leader, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the charismatic Chunk-a-like, Richie (Finn Wolfhard), the mouthy fan of “mom” jokes, Bev (Sophia Lillis), the outsider girl that falls in with the boys. Each member of the Loser’s Club and their personal relationships are well defined, the chemistry between the gang is almost tangible and the performances across the board are top drawer. They’ll undoubtedly go down as one of the year’s most loveable ensembles.
This lot aren’t on the hunt for lost treasure though, as the Goonies were before them. They don’t even have time to catch the latest movie releases Batman and Lethal Weapon 2 at their local multiplex. Because instead of doing as children do in their summer holidays, they’re busy tracking down a mysterious, deadly creature, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who has snatched Bill’s younger brother Georgie (in one heck of a creepy opening scene). A striking yellow rain coat that Georgie’s wearing when he’s taken acts as a lure for Pennywise, drawing Bill and company closer and closer towards his literal house of horrors; harkening back to the red coat of Donald Sutherland’s deceased child in 1973’s Don’t Look Now.
If the blend of movies from a bygone era and genuine scares aplenty sounds at all familiar to Stranger Things, you’re thinking along the right lines. Not least of all because It shares a cast member in the hilarious Finn Wolfhard (great name). Between Stranger Things, Spider-Man: Homecoming and It, it would seem that we’re in the midst of an ’80s cinema revival. And frankly, I’m all in. This is easily the darkest take on the new trend though thanks to Bill Skarsgård’s titular villain. As if his chosen form as a balloon-toting clown with a frenzied smile wasn’t horrendous enough, he twists and forms into hideous lepers, a headless boy, a painting come to life. He feeds off the fear of his victims before leaving them to float lifelessly in midair once he’s bled them dry. So basically he’s a nice guy all round. Skarsgård excels in the hugely surreal, wonderfully theatrical role. He might be committing horrible acts, but there’s just something bizarrely grin-inducing about the performance. And about the film as a whole. There’s just a lot to love here. Charm, thrills, spills, and most importantly, heart.
It made me float with sadness, fear and joy. You’ll float too.
Rating (out of 5):