A new adaptation of Stephen King’s signature novel once again proves that parents and clowns are children’s worst nightmare

Traumatizing children and ruining the circus since 1986, Stephen King’s It remains one of the bestselling author’s most recognizable works, thanks in no small part to a memorable performance by Tim Curry as the titular monster in a 1990 television adaptation. Yet until now, a big screen version remained elusive; a problem Argentinian filmmaker Andrés Muschietti set out to rectify in true Hollywood blockbuster style.

Haunted by their parents and teenage angst, a group of seven children are drawn together by a common adversary: “Pennywise the dancing clown,” an enigmatic, malevolent force tormenting each of them. A being that feeds on children’s fear, he appears after they experience trauma. Completely ignored by indifferent adults, the motley crew of outsiders must band together to defeat the mysterious evil, said to appear every 27 years in their hometown of Derry, Maine. Only through unity and mutual encouragement can the kids face their fears, embodied by Pennywise, and take down the clown. And while the scares from the creature may be predictable, the real horror happens at home. Portraying horrific bullying at high school, as well as never-ending parental mental and sexual abuse, what truly chills are the human monsters.

The film starts off with a strong Stranger Things vibe, sharing various commonalities with the hit series like the timeframe (the 1980s), a group of young-adult misfits (self-named The Losers), a teenage girl joining in the quest and even the actor Finn Wolfhard. Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård landed the coveted role of the shape-shifting villain, brilliantly epitomizing his insane theatricality and making the role his own. Ultimately though, It remains a typical horror flick, occasionally sliding into unintentional parody. Ear-piercing music promises chills, but excessive reliance on jump scares eventually evokes giggles rather than fear: you can only handle so many headless or bloody zombies and popping red balloons before even eyeballs melting from a face becomes more amusing than terrifying.

With the ending leaving the fate of Pennywise unresolved, a sequel has already been announced; here’s hoping It: Chapter II will prove more even and satisfying.

Opens Sep 28th, Haydn Kino, 6. Mariahilfe Strasse 57, haydnkino.at