Throughout the history of cinema and television, there has been a great number of young actors who exude the raw talent and natural coolness of movie stars well beyond their years- many of them going on to have successful acting careers. The latest kid to join those ranks is Finn Wolfhard, who horror fans will notice as the star of Stranger Things and IT.
Taking an entire genre by storm, Wolfhard has been a conduit for nostalgia in his expert understanding of an era that horror fans are keen of, all the while breathing a fresh life into roles that would be otherwise familiar. Before continuing, I should make note that this editorial will feature light spoilers about the newest theatrical Stephen King adaptation, so if you’ve yet to see IT, perhaps you shouldn’t continue reading. You’ll die if you try.
If there’s anything in this world as wonderful as Stranger Things, it’s likely featured in this article as well. The science fiction horror series has been a resounding success for Netflix since the release of its first season last summer, and its triumphs are poised to continue with season two approaching next month.
Steeped in 80’s nostalgia, particularly in its loving homages to the cinema of the decade, Stranger Things blends a terrifying story with wondrous adventure, focusing on the camaraderie of an era-realistic group of friends. As Mike, the leader of the group and a focal point of the series, Finn Wolfhard spiritedly carries the show in tradition of characters such as Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Mikey from The Goonies.
Establishing an ample amount of heart in a series that equally serves fear and emotional torment, Wolfhard shines as the vessel in which viewers will connect memories of their own childhood to. We’re locked in as Mike goes through the motions of grief and fear in the face of tragedy and evil, as he falls in love for the first time, and, most effectively, as he learns to grow as a child on the cusp of young adulthood.
More-so than IT, viewers will find pieces of themselves in Mike Wheeler. Finn Wolfhard nails the emotionally affecting role, elevating Stranger Things to the same heights as the films which it admiringly emulates.
Andy Muschietti‘s big-screen adaptation of IT, however, is where Wolfhard truly shines within the genre. As Richie Tozier, the legendary jokester of the Losers’ Club, Finn Wolfhard will make you strain a rib in heavy laughter. Nearly every word that comes out of the character’s mouth is comedy gold, but Wolfhard layers the role with a firm understanding of who Tozier really is, allowing what would otherwise be a one-note character to stand out as perhaps the most genuine.
There’s no denying the influence and impact that Stephen King’s IT has had on the horror genre, in all three incarnations of the story (novel, miniseries and film). The film, which had its wide release on Thursday night, is going to make bank at the box office thanks to the hype of horror fans; and for this generation of fans, Richie Tozier will be mentioned among their favorite horror heroes.
While he’s predominantly used to gain laughs and break tension, there’s an undercurrent of anger and teenage confusion brewing within the character. Torn between taking on the responsibility of helping his friends fight an evil entity and wanting to remain a carefree child, Richie’s eventual decision to stand by his friends and embrace a purpose bigger than himself (“Now you’re going to make me kill this fucking clown”) is a triumphant, crowd-pleasing moment that solidifies Tozier as one of the greatest, most likable characters- child or not- in the history of horror cinema.
Most impressive about Wolfhard’s performance as Richie, though, is the vast difference between his portrayal of these two popular characters. While there’s undoubtedly a similarity between the group itself and that of Stranger Things, Wolfhard refuses to be typecast- instead showing an impressive range and commanding the screen with an entirely different type of character.
With Stranger Things season two just around the corner, I’m stoked to see Wolfhard’s transition back into the Mike character. Even more-so, however, I’m excited to see what these juggernaut productions lead to next. At only 14 years old, Finn Wolfhard is one of modern horror’s most recognizable heroes. This kid is the real deal, and the genre is lucky to have him.