Adapting a thousand-page novel is never an easy task, and while Stephen King’s remarkably cerebral brand of horror has often fallen flat on the big screen, somehow this adaptation of the first half of King’s classic 1986 novel manages to get most things right. In particular, director Andy Mushietti and screenwriters Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga have a strong handle on the dynamics among the young characters (not unlike Netflix’s “Stranger Things”) and exploit the audience’s affection for the pre-teens extraordinarily well, placing them in imminent danger in just about every scene. Bill Skarsgard is effective as Pennywise in an already-classic performance, but I was most struck by young Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis and Jeremy Ray Taylor, who each stand out among the cast. The movie sets up an exciting showdown for Chapter Two, and is easily one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King property ever made.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)