- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2018

Director Andy Muschietti’s creepy coming-of-age blockbuster based on Stephen King’s acclaimed novel moves from cinemas to ultra-high definition home theaters to make the case that clowns are truly the scariest creatures alive in It (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated R, 135 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $45.99).

Specifically, viewers occasional look through their covered eyes to watch the story of a bloodthirsty, shape-shifting creature named Pennywise (disturbingly played by Bill Skarsgård) emerging from the sewers to steal the children in the 1980s small town of Derry, Maine.

The opening scene sets the tone for the grisly events to follow as a youngster meets the clown (popping his head out of a storm drain) and gets violently dragged into its realm.

A group of six nerdy boys and an alienated girl targeted by the entity eventually band together (nicknamed the Losers’ Club) and end up in a decaying haunted mansion and smelly sewers to save one of their team and ultimately confront Pennywise.



The horror throughout is equally split between Pennywise’s grotesque antics, pulling out numerous variations on modern-day scares, and more real frights realized from the children dealing with bullying and parental abuse.

The child actors deliver some humor as well as emotional performances in nearly every scene led by Sophia Lillis as tough-girl Beverly Marsh; Jeremy Ray Taylor as the stuttering leader Ben Hanscomand; and Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things” as the bespeckled, profanity-spewing Richard Tozier.

Fans should also prepare for the clown’s return in 2019 in the second chapter to the film franchise with the Losers all grown up and returning to Maine for another battle with their nemesis.

4K UHD in action: Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung shot with digital cameras, usually rich in high resolution, so I’m a bit disappointed that the final 2160p transfer was culled from the lower, 2K master format.

However, the high dynamic range tweaks make up for it. The dark scenes in the sewers and mansion areas that would normally appear muddy now look very sharp, and it’s easy to see all of the action.

Also, vivid color moments seen in a nearly florescent green river, a sink spewing a geyser of blood, the clown’s flaming orange hair, cracking white makeup on its forehead and razor-sharp teeth bathed in drool were certainly memorable.

The Dolby Atmos sound mix also really delivers during a rainstorm with the speakers making it sound like the water droplets and thunder claps are happening right in the entertainment room.

All scenes with Pennywise are equally aurally potent with sound crescendos playing during every jump scare.

And, it’s great to hear some loud versions of the 1980s-themed soundtrack, including “Love Removal Machine” from the Cult, “Six Different Ways” from the Cure and “Dear God” from XTC.

Best extras: By far, the most informative extra was 14 minutes with Mr. King in a new interview discussing the origins of his 1986 horror novel.

Viewers learn that his story was based on the legends of Bangor, Maine, and the author’s twisted imagination. He also talks about what made him afraid as a kid, and how he developed characters still young enough to believe in monsters.

Also worth watching is an over 16-minute look at Pennywise, introduced by the child actors getting ready to meet him for the first time. Viewers then get Mr. Skarsgård discussing the creature’s origins along with director and producer Barbara Muschietti.

Fans of the Losers’ Club will dive into an almost 16-minute featurette offering interviews with all of the very articulate young actors of the group as they touch on the camaraderie on the set and working with an evil clown.

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