IT is a supernatural horror film based on Stephen King's 1986 novel of the same name. It is the first installment in a planned duology. The novel was previously adapted into a 1990 miniseries. Click here to read my review of that miniseries. It is directed by Andres Muschietti and stars Jaeden Lieberher and Bill Skarsgard star as Bill Denbrough and Pennywise the Dancing Clown, respectively. Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, and Jackson Robert Scott also star in supporting roles.
The Story/The Direction:
The film tells the story of seven children in Derry, Maine. The seven are terrorized by a being that is mostly seen as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. As they go up against It, they face their own personal demons. The story is essentially the first half of the miniseries. This movie is about and stars kids but it's definitely not for them. I mean it's about a killer clown eating kids. If you missed the memo, the opening scene will show you that in comparison to the miniseries that dissolves the scene that this is a very violent film and absolutely terrifying. This film doesn't only rely on jump scares though and it gives you some horrifying images.
If you've seen the 2013 horror film Mama, which was based on his short film of the same name, you see a lot of similarities here. But giving terrifying imagery is what that film did. The short film had what Guillermo del Toro stated as "scariest" scenes he had "ever seen." He ended up executive producing it and making it into a feature film which starred Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, and Isabelle Nelisse. While del Toro was not involved in this film, you can even see some similar techniques. Muschietti will be able to scare you using these terrifying visuals to get you screaming while also laughing. There's a fine line between horror and comedy as shown in Jordan Peele's Get Out that came out earlier this year. While this film is different in a lot of aspects, this technique of switching between scary and funny scenes is the same. This film will show you very creepy visuals that varies from each kid but it may have you laugh the next scene. Each kid has their individual fear that Pennywise plays off of and is relatable to any viewer. Their fears range from their past, their present, their future and even one is actually afraid of clowns. This allows for some great visuals that will have you startled more than once. The IT script is helped by its young actors that bring The Losers Club to life.
One of the things that added to the success of this film is its characters, especially the kids. Each was fairly individual and had that 1980s feel. These kids were just as from the 1980s as the original kids were even the bullies. Out of all of them, Beverly's (Lillis) arc was probably the most interesting and dark and Richie (Wolfhard) was the funniest with his big mouth. Each character was played phenomenally by their respective child actor with Lieberher and Lillis being the highlights. I look forward to them in future roles.
If you found Tim Curry terrifying as Pennywise, I'd stay away from this film because Skarsgard's take is absolutely petrifying. He is absolutely fantastic making every appearance creepy no matter if on screen for minutes or seconds. Skarsgard makes such an impact that Pennywise could be put as one of the best film villains. I loved what they did with his eyes to pop out. It just added more to the creepiness of Pennywise. I personally also love Renaissance look to his clown that added to his age to show he has been around for awhile very just a typical clown outfit. The makeup and production on Pennywise are fantastic and Skarsgard puts on an award-winning performance.
As well as a few of the characters are developed, there are some who are not. You only get to know Bill, Ben (Taylor), Beverly, and Eddie (Grazer). The others are only partly explored. You don't get to really know Ritchie, Stanley (Oleff), or Mike (Jacobs). This is the trouble with big ensemble films even when kids are the stars, some characters get pushed to the back burner. The one that bothered me the most was Mike. His fear was really only focused on dialogue where a lot of the others' fears were visually shown. Also, his arc did not really pay off as it seemed separate from his fear. There's also this weird inclusion of music. It sometimes works but mostly it seems silly. One example is the sequence where the kids are cleaning up a bathroom with an upbeat pop song that also did not make sense that there was a clean up at all as it is apparently not really real. The script also had a lot of other frivolous scenes. It did not know what to do with the romance between characters and honestly became cliche and corny. In addition, while the obvious plot for a villain is to divide and conquer his prey when the kids have multiple speeches about sticking together then a few seconds later completely forgetting about it sort of removes it's purpose. There is also this odd point in the film where the kids try to go back to normal that seemed like filler.
What made the miniseries decent, was the children part of the story. To only tackle one half of the story is what made this film really good in addition to some fantastic performances. While not flawless, it does leave enough questions unanswered for "IT: Chapter Two" that could help dive more into the Pennywise character. As with all things, fear is very subjective but I hope Muschietti returns, as this film is a great theatre going experience.
Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties
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