Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. There are people who actually suffer with this fear and are probably happy as hell that the Ringling Bros Circus folded it's tent for good. You, might even know a few people who are terrified of clowns. But the idea of the modern day evil clown was attributed to Chicago's own serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, who managed to murder at least 33 boys in the 70s.


Gacy masqueraded as Pogo the Clown at various charitable kiddie events and was a fine upstanding citizen until the world found out about his secret buried under his house. After that, he became known as the Killer Clown and, some say, the basis of Stephen King's 1986 novel It which was later adapted into a four-hour miniseries on ABC back in 1990. A lot of the things that were in the 1300-page plus nbovel were stricken and a nice sanitized version was aired.


Twenty years later (ironically the same interval as the murders occur in the story) director Andy Muschetti takes on the mammoth story using a lot more blood and quite a few more special effects. But in all honesty, it's the same story as in 1990.

Everything takes place in Derry Maine, a small town in which strange things happen to the children every 27 years. But it's not like this is Niceville USA, Derry has an issue in that everyone has an issue. The town is dysfunctional.


The film opens with little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) chasing his paper origami boat to a sewer drain. Sure enough, in the drain is a creepy clown named Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) who invites the child to retreived the boat. Next scene is a river of blood with body parts being pulled into the drain.


It is because of the complacency of the adults in the town as to what happened to little Georgie that gives his older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) reason to investigate the incident himself. Bill joins forces with a bunch of other neglected and abused kids who are loosely called the Loser's Club. They consist of the obligatory black kid Mike (Chosen Jacobs), fat kid Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), girl Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and nerdish friend Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), and Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer).

All the kids have uncomfortable home situations with Beverly under the constant threat of sexual abuse from her dad. But once they start trying to track down Pennywise, their screwed up home lives become secondary to the bloodfest on the horizon. But tracking down Pennywise gives them something else to do when they are trying to avoid the town bullies lead by Henry (Nicholas Hamilton).


What we get is a two-hour, fifteen-minute blood fest that does an excellent job of developing just about every character even if it's just be fore they get sent to the butcher shop. Don't expect that PG-rated yawner like the 1990 TV version. This is Olympic size gore.


What is very good are the performances by the kids who emote believable fear. Keep in mind this is the only time we see them at this age, the "Part 2" will catch up with them 27 years later as adults with unresolved issues. Skarsgard's version of Pennywise is twenty times better than that of Tim Curry's in 1990. The 1990 version was kindergarten stuff especially with the likes of John Ritterm Tim Reid, and Harry Anderson (all comedians).


Where the film misses is the fact director Muschietti had to chop out many of the subplots from the novel to keep this at a reasonable runtime. The biggest shortage is the lack of explaining that "It" was really an evil presence that manifested itself into the killer clown.


"It" will go down as one of the better adaptations of a Stephen King novel after "Carrie", "The Shining" and "Stand By Me". It's biggest strengths are the performances by the actors and it's promise of gratuitous gore.   -- GEOFF BURTON