There have been so many Stephen King adaptations over the last four decades – many of them bad – that it’s easy to take them for granted. But there is something undeniably appealing about the sensibilities of this prolific author, a visual quality that translates effectively to the screen, and it’s something that director Andy Muschietti captures disturbingly well in his adaptation of IT or at least, in this first half of the two-part film.
Stephen King’s seminal work about a group of put-upon children who overcome their fears – personified as a demonic clown – and later revisit their childhood traumas as adults has been adapted once before, in a 1990 TV mini-series. And although that version features a haunting performance by Tim Curry as the titular monster, its workmanlike presentation doesn’t come close to this new adaptation, which understands that King’s small-town nostalgia is purposefully grandiose. Memories of childhood have a tendency to take on a larger-than-life quality, a perspective which Muschietti interprets on film with romantic sentimentality half the time and grotesquely distorted funhouse-mirror theatricality the rest.