Fans of Stephen King's It have wondered whether a film adaptation would do justice to his 1986 horror novel, about a group of children terrorized by a supernatural being that often takes the form of a clown, or surpass the 1990 television miniseries that made Tim Curry's Pennywise a fixture of nightmares.
If the early reviews for director Andy Muschietti's adaptation are any indication, the answer to both appears to be yes. Following the lifting of the Warner Bros. embargo on reviews, It stands at 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. That rating will change as the R-rated film moves closer to wide release on Friday, but it's certainly a promising start.
Here's a selection of what the critics are saying about It:
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "The new movie, a skillful blend of nostalgic sentiment and hair-raising effects, with the visual punch of big-screen digital hocus-pocus and the liberties of the R rating, still has the soothing charm of familiarity. The gang of misfit ’80s kids who face down the clown and the deeper horror he represents evoke both the middle school posse of the recent TV series Stranger Things (there’s some overlap in the cast), but also the intrepid brotherhood from Stand by Me, surely one of the all-time top five Stephen King movie adaptations."
Katie Rife, The A.V. Club: "For a film that takes its time with its characters and packs every frame with lavish detail—the kids’ show that plays on TV in the background throughout, advising young viewers to go play in the sewers, is a nice touch—It is surprisingly unsubtle. A sexual-abuse subplot that largely remains subtext in the book is made much more obvious in the film, and a love triangle between three of the Losers is given outsized importance here compared to the source material. With such earnest attention to detail, and so much detail to attend to, the script can get clunky at points, and the exposition isn’t always handled elegantly, particularly in dialogue scenes. But when it comes time for the scary stuff—and there’s a lot of it, never fear—that same heavy hand becomes an asset. "
Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound: "The whole movie is so affecting that Pennywise doesn't even matter. In a way, he's more of a McGuffin to the real horrors at hand, from parental abuse to violent bullying to the unnerving revelation that life has only just begun."
Angie Han, Mashable: "It digs down deep into that fraught period in life when you're old enough to realize that the world can be a very dark place, but not quite old enough to understand how or why, or what to do about it. It is scary, yes – but it's heartbreaking, too. And that, even more than the clown's nasty tricks, might be what lingers with you."
Rosie Fletcher, Digital Spy: "Fresh, frightening, inventive, with exceptional performances from the young cast, we can't imagine a movie more viscerally and emotionally true to King's text, even though Muschietti has made some smart changes to the source material."
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: "This is a really fun movie. Good, too. Not great, but old-school in its approach to scares and, even better, in its approach to the relationships between kids, outsiders who band together to try to take down a monstrous evil. And maybe flirt a little while they’re at it."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: "This is an ensemble smorgasbord of scariness, or maybe a portmanteau of petrification, throwing everything but the haunted kitchen-sink at the audience in the cause of freaking us out. As creepy and horrible things keep happening to each of the kids, it almost feels like a horror anthology, a collection of scares which could be shuffled and presented in any order. In some ways, it is more suited to a TV series – such as Twin Peaks, maybe – and has in fact been adapted that way."
Dan Callahan, TheWrap: "Once the characters have been set up, Muschietti is free to linger as much as he wants over certain set pieces, and the results are as scary as they should be. One of the scariest scenes in the miniseries came when Pennywise communicated via a bathroom sink, and Muschietti radically builds on this with a very impressive sequence where Beverly is pulled down into the drain by the strands of her own cut hair. The effects in the miniseries often look very rudimentary now, and Muschietti does take advantage of what effects can do today."
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: "It is essentially two movies. The better by far (and it's very good) is the one that feels like a darker Stand by Me — a nostalgic coming-of-age story about seven likable outcasts riding around on their bikes and facing their fears together."
Based on Stephen King’s classic novel of the same name, It stars Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Owen Teague and Logan Thompson. The film floats its way into theaters on Friday.