Any of you familiar with the story of IT will immediately notice some substantial and very positive changes in this film adaptation. The novel and previous mini series both have a two part story (one with the kids and one as them grown up) woven together in a messy and repetitive structure. The first thing the filmmakers here did was to jettison the adult story altogether.
It's an excellent decision and one that makes perfect sense. By concentrating on one story at a time (the adult sequel will be coming soon) they have immediately taken the bloated and over-written story and slashed it down to a workable length.
The other obvious change is that they have adjusted the time period to suit a contemporary audience; so this first instalment takes place in 1989, allowing for the adult version to be set in the present day. This also works very well and doesn't detract from the story in any way - it still maintains that suburban charm and the feel of a dark underbelly of Americana.
The children are aged up a couple of years to 13 but this also helps the story as it does deal with a lot of ideas of sexual awakening. The children themselves are very well cast and actually age appropriate, which gives the whole thing a greater authenticity. There are still a couple too many characters (Mike and Stanley could easily have been excised) but generally they are well characterised and excellently acted.
In fact, I can't fault much about the production at all. It's atmospheric in the way a good horror film should be; it's beautifully shot; the plot has been thinned out to remove most of the total bullshit inter-dimensional bollocks that Stephen King came up with; and the cast are charming and seem to have real chemistry. This is just about the best adaptation of Stephen King's IT that one could hope for.
And there is the real problem. When all is said and done, this is still an adaptation of Stephen King's IT, and that is the weakest element of this film. The novel is terrible, and despite King's excellent writing style to make it sound good, it is still a hollow and superficial bit of horror nonsense. And that unfortunately is also the film's failing. No matter how freaky you make the clown look, it still has no substance. There is no meaning behind any of it. And bearing in mind that the filmmakers here made a good job of getting everything out of that story that they could, there is still not enough here to actually hold together a coherent plot.
If I wasn't aware of the novel then I would probably have had much more negative things to say about this because the plot and meaning is always the most important aspect of a film to me. But knowing just how well they've done with the sloppy source material, I can't help but be impressed and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next.
Doing a good job with bad tools; 7/10