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Stars: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott

Director: Andy Muschietti

Stephen King’s acclaimed classic shocker and the best-selling book in the USA in 1986 was typically disinfected for the small screen as a two-part miniseries in 1990.

Now, after the box-office flop that was the film of his The Tower, King reigns again

Screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman (Fukunaga was originally going to direct as well) make the most of King’s original (the first of two movies based on the book; a ‘part two’ sequel is scheduled) resetting the original sinister story to the 1980s in seemingly sanitised Spielberg-style small-town Derry, Maine (convincingly played by Port Hope in Canada), where centuries-old evil clown Pennywise emerges from the sewers to terrify children.

And when he does, chillingly sucking a small boy who is chasing his paper boat down a sewer at the beginning of the chills and thrills, it’s up to seven outside youngsters who are victims of school bullies and led by the dead boy’s older brother Jaeden Lieberher to subjugate the evil apparition…

Says director Muschietti who cleverly and cruelly stretches nerves to snapping point, “Fear is universal. it’s something we can all relate to. And what could be more terrifying than something that doesn’t just attack you, but attacks you with what frightens you most?".

And he proves his point with a chilling nail-biting (possibly down to your elbows) supernatural shocker that does King credit and leaves you keen to see the promised future second slice of IT.

The youngsters acquit themselves well in the face of mounting tension and increasingly scary set-ups (the obligatory haunted house is creepy enough to make even the Addams Family think twice before moving in) and supporting adult roles are well cast and well played.

Inevitably (and rightly) Skarsgård’s diabolical clown steals the show. He is truly terrifying and never upstaged by superb special effects that make King’s vision of perdition all too realistically hellish.

(Happily and appropriately Muschietti’s film erases all memories of the television miniseries and, to quote Mel Brooks – admittedly in a totally different context – “It’s good to be the king!”.

Alan Frank

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour.
134 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 08 Sep 2017