The first review of the year's creepiest movie
Rating: four stars (4 out of 5)
Director: Andy Muschetti (Mama)
Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer.
Playing the clown while preying the town
A spectacularly spooky new adaptation of the old Stephen King book, It arrives fully weaponised with enough heebies and jeebies to force a global spike in recorded outbreaks of coulrophobia.
That's the fear of clowns, in case you didn't know.
However, once you get to know It's big-shoed, red-nosed protagonist, Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgard), there's every chance you will become a coulrophobic for life.
Pennywise is a Freddy Krueger of the fairgrounds who is spending the summer in the small town of Derry, Maine. He has been a regular visitor for over a century, though he always leaves a period of exactly 27 years between stays.
Without straying too far into the spoiler zone, mention must be made that Pennywise is but one physical manifestation of a shapeshifting evil entity which comes to be nicknamed "It" by the kids of Derry.
Any child unlucky enough to score some face time with "It" in any of its forms is guaranteed a one-way ticket to the missing persons list.
However, when it is purely Pennywise is to the fore, the unsettling force that propels It comes through with unrelenting, creepy clarity.
From the moment we first cast eyes on this grotesque carny freak - that's him hiding inside a storm water drain on a rainy afternoon, ickily engaging a little boy in some idle conversation - Pennywise will playing upon each of your secret fears like tinkling every key on a grand piano.
While scary enough in its own right to have you avoiding circuses, street parades and birthday parties forevermore, It is also a very well-made, well-acted movie that can easily claim a place as one of the year's best.
Not just for its unsettling collection of eerie, vanished-kid shocks to the system. But also for some accessibly bright and illuminating storytelling.
This is the key reason why It is destined to be a massive box-office hit in the weeks ahead. Though the movie will definitely rattle an audience, superior scripting and a judicious use of restraint ensures no-one will be repulsed by what they must endure.
In addition to Skarsgard's sinister stylings as the deranged Pennywise, the movie also extracts winning performances from a predominantly young and relatively unknown cast.
This novice section of the ensemble not only excel in the torrid and tense sections of the picture, but also when the situation calls for levity and light relief as well.
Thanks to them, the fraught, yet immersive It experience delivers a complete and lasting rush, not unlike an entire season of the Netflix classic Stranger Thingsadministered in a single, powerful two-hour dose.