As far as today’s explosively popular trend for 1980s nostalgia goes, Stephen King’s IT is, at first glance, an impressively thorough box-ticker of a reboot. Motley crew of bicycle-riding, adolescent misfits? Check. Token lovable chunky kid? Check. Mollycoddled momma’s boy? Check. Throw in Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as the wise-cracking, absurdly charismatic leader of the gang and herein lie all the ingredients of a ready-made, Hollywood blockbuster.
Indeed, as a title so deeply entrenched in the trappings and tropes of its era, Andrés Muschietti’s 2017 remake is comically hyper-aware of its legacy, doling out amusing genre clichés and revelling in Molly Ringwald references at every deftly executed turn. Aesthetically too, it’s rich in meticulously crafted retro details and broodingly tense atmospherics, with its application of technical wizardry kept to a refreshingly understated minimum.
And yet, like the sprawling labyrinth of subterranean horrors lurking deep beneath the unassuming streets of King’s beloved, fictional town of Derry, IT’s nostalgia value is but one dimension of this enduringly classic tale of supernatural terror, adolescent strife and friendship. Scratch its slickly produced surface and you'll find a thoroughly developed and likeable cast whose razor-sharp quips and bawdy banter is delivered with organic ease and ceaselessly energised panache. Skilfully counterbalanced with individual narratives centred on such poignantly relevant issues as grief, high school bullying and sexual abuse, the disquietingly relatable horrors masquerading behind the garish phantom of Pennywise the clown make for deeply affecting viewing.
Though some of the countless scares showcased here border on schlocky and contrived in places, IT does a largely successful and oftentimes highly creative job of generating suspense in all the right places. In particular, one notably gruesome bathroom scene illustrates exceptionally skilled orchestration of suspense escalating from mild paranoia and morbid curiosity to a grand crescendo of abject terror. Relentlessly paced yet thought-provoking. Horrific yet laugh-out-loud hilarious. IT is a rare gem of a movie and, dare it be said, an instant classic.