Horror author Stephen King has a much-deserved reputation for knowing the right buttons to push.
One of the reasons for that rep is that he doesn’t pull any punches. If something in a given story leads down a particularly dark and very nasty alley, he’ll take you there and make you stay long enough to feel stained and mired in the disturbing muck, along with pounding your noggin with word images to haunt your dreams long afterward. That’s why movie adaptations of his books have been decidedly hit or miss, with the emphasis on miss.
One of them, which had great potential, was the two-part made-for-TV version that came out in 1990. But, because it was created under the thumb of network suits, King’s darker tendencies were, shall we say, severely neutered. However, its saving grace was Tim Curry’s memorable turn as the evil clown, Pennywise, as well as the young actors who portrayed the “Losers Club.”
Now, it’s 27 years later (a number with great significance in “It” lore) and another production team is taking a stab at the same tale, but this time as a feature film with an R rating and computer-generated special effects that were unavailable back then.
This film, which is set in 1980, focuses primarily on what happens to the kids in the “Losers Club.” (A future film will presumably deal with what happens to the kids as adults.) Director Andy Muschietti deftly casts this film with mostly unknowns, save for Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things.” This means the audience is more apt to see the young actors as just the kids they’re playing and not overlaying what we may or may not already know about them.
The kids live in a town called Derry, which, as they eventually discover, has a tragic history of people disappearing or turning up mangled and very dead. Often, in classic King fashion, they tend to be children. When the story opens, Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is home sick and to help entertain his little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), he makes a sweet little paper boat. He even writes on the side, “SS Georgie.” Well, Georgie loves it and can’t wait to sail it in the rain-filled street gutter outside.
Unfortunately, this is the last time anyone will see Georgie and his little yellow rain slicker. But it is the first time we, the audience, will meet Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a malevolent presence that has taken the form of a circus clown.
The thing about King’s stories is that he doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to explain the whys and wherefores of his characters and what they do. Like stories from Japanese mythology, many times the villainous “things” in the stories just exist, and the things they do just happen because that’s just what they do. In this particular story, the kids are the only ones who know what’s happening and the adults just react as most adults do: with disbelief, anger and ugly assumptions.
The kids in the “Losers Club” are the aforementioned Bill Denbrough, Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie Tozier (Wolfhard), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) and, later, Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) and Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs).
These kids are basically outsiders, picked on, belittled and bullied, mostly by bigger kids like Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), Belch Huggins (Jake Sim) and Patrick Hockstetter (Owen Teague).
Of the cast, Lillis as Beverly is a standout for her portrayal as a young girl fighting an undeserved reputation while also fighting off a horrific family situation.
“It” will never in our lifetimes contain everything King put in his book, and that’s probably a good thing. That’s one dark alley no one deserves to be led into. But, at least, director Muschietti has put together a pretty good fright night thriller that will stand until the next chapter is released. We can hardly wait.
“It” is rated R for violence/horror, bloody images and for language.
It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some thematic and sexual material
Mitchell Storyteller 7
In this comedy film written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, a woman who is recently separated from her husband decides to start over by moving back to Los Angeles with her two daughters.
While celebrating her 40th birthday, Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) meets Harry, George and Teddy (Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky and Nat Wolff), three young filmmakers who need a place to live. Complications soon arise when she agrees to let the men stay in her guesthouse temporarily.
As Alice develops a budding romance with Harry, her newfound happiness comes crashing down when her ex shows up with a suitcase in his hand.
“Not everyone in ‘Home Again’ gets exactly what she or he desires, but only supporting characters lose out in this enchanted tale of family bliss and career serendipity,” writes Mark Jenkins in The Washington Post (Sept. 7). “If her career as director somehow doesn’t pan out, Meyers-Shyer would make an excellent fairy godmother.”
“Alice seems pretty upbeat for someone who’s in the middle of a marital meltdown, facing the prospect of raising two kids mostly by herself, and it doesn’t take long to see why,” writes Owen Gleiberman in Variety (Sept. 5). “Despite her situation, she has no economic worries! She comes from Hollywood royalty, and she has returned to the moneyed bosom of her childhood home, where she attempts to launch a career as a freelance interior decorator. (This part of the film plays like ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ without irony.)”
This film will be screened daily.
Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.