IT is based on a novel by Stephen King first published in 1986. I read that book when it first came out and honestly it was the first King novel to disappoint me. I felt it needed a better ending and more importantly it needed an editor. This was the first case of Stephen King as mega writer and it seemed they were reluctant to edit him.
The story takes place in two eras-- each 27 years apart from the other-- initially set in the 1950s its a coming of age story about a group of misfits who find each other and band together to survive that most terrifying of all things known to man; middle school.
Here's King's strength and his weakness; he essentially writes the same things over and over again. He does a lot of stories about groups of kids, about small towns that are inherently evil, he often repeats the professions of his characters too-- they are usually either a writer, a teacher or a grocery store employee-- all professions shared by King himself--write about what you know.
But this group of misfits seems true to life. Bullied to the furthest degree they are forced to watch out for each other, to protect each other. The bully in this story, Henry Bowers, is psychotic and homicidal, he's a bully to the worst degree while still playing true to the very nature of bullies.
He represents the fear that unfortunately many children face growing up, dealing with a force that for whatever reason hates them because they're different, or just not strong enough to stand up to the more powerful force of the bully.
A kids world is filled with fear. Fear of teachers, fear of fitting in, fear of parents, of authority, of doing something wrong, of doing something right, fear of the dark, fear of the cellar, fear of thunderstorms,
fear of clowns.
And that's where King excels.
I myself have never feared clowns. I actually like them-- and the scarier the clown the more I like them. I think Bozo did a lot to keep me from being afraid of those painted big nosed practitioners of the slapstick arts.
In King's story Pennywise is the big evil here. A sewer dwelling clown who lures the children of Derry Maine to their death with a big red balloon.
The story itself examines fear and what scares us. It also teaches us that if we face those fears they lose their power over us, as hard as that might be to do sometimes, it works.
If you've seen the 1990 TV mini-series with Tim Curry and liked it-- this one is very close in spirit to that one, but on a larger scale with a more advanced class of actor. The downfall in that mini series were the parts with the adult versions of the kids who just lacked the same magnetism as the kids and somehow felt like they were acting. It didn't happen that John Boy Walton is the lead and for some reason he sports a pony tail which is more distracting than the stutter that reappears around the same time Pennywise does.
The new movie expands the story and with a greater budget is able to up the gore and scare factor quite a bit. I especially enjoyed some of the ghosts especially the headless one when he makes his appearance.
IT is a fast moving 2 hours which refreshingly didn't see the need to retro cast a diverse cast just for the sake of the story. It wasn't preachy it was entertaining with an overall positive message and some exciting thrills and chills mixed in to give you a nice Halloween themed evenings entertainment.