Stephen King’s classic horror novel It is popularly known as “the book with the scary killer clown,” but that’s really only part of the story. The true star of King’s sprawling epic isn’t Pennywise the dancing clown or any one member of the Losers’ Club, but rather the fictional town of Derry, Maine, which you would think was a real place considering the way King brings it to life in meticulous detail. Director Andy Muschietti’s new feature film adaptation understands that the town of Derry is almost as disturbing and unsettling as the murderous clown who haunts it (if not more so) and as such, the film has a powerful sense of place and spends just as much time establishing the town’s geography as it does showing children being terrorized by the titular monster. Unfortunately, 2017 has already given us one lackluster Stephen King adaption, meaning that It has to play double duty in delivering a modernized take on a story many are intimately familiar with thanks to the popular, though flawed 1990 TV miniseries, while also trying to make us forget that The Dark Tower ever happened. Thankfully, the new It succeeds with flying colors, but not without a few minor missteps along the way.
As already mentioned, Muschieti’s film does an excellent job in bringing the town of Derry to life (fun fact: much of the film was shot in Port Hope, Ontario, a two hour drive from where I live!) but this Derry has one important difference from the one depicted in King’s original novel. The script, co-written by True Detective director Cary Fukanaga, switches the time period from the 1950s to the 1980s. Purists may decry this change, but it makes sense given that the ’80s are currently the nostalgic decade of choice. If the whole thing feels more than a little reminiscent of Stranger Things, that’s not accidental, as It was clearly a big influence on the popular Netflix series, so it’s only fitting that this new adaptation borrow a page, as it were.