It : Originally spawned from the bizarrely terrifying mind of horror author Stephen King, the story of It has captured the frightful imaginations of readers and clown-fearing children everywhere. While a 1990 mini-series adaptation of the novel starring Tim Curry as the titular monster has amassed a cult following over the years, Andy Muschietti’s new film attempts to traumatize a whole new generation. The premise follows a group of friends in Derry, Maine, who are stalked by a mysterious entity that takes the form of an evil clown named Pennywise. The self-proclaimed “Losers Club” must defeat the creature before it can feed off their deepest fears.
What Floats Your Boat: It’s not often that audiences form strong attachments and sympathize with the main characters of a horror movie, let alone an ensemble consisting of pre-teen actors, but the absolute best aspect that It delivers is the camaraderie of the cast. This rag-tag gang of plucky youngsters shines throughout the entire film, delivering many comedic one-liners and endearing moments atypical to a story of this nature. With each character fleshed out, the stakes are higher and the threat is more legitimate as viewers watch these kids battle an ancient evil—maybe just as menacing as the daily obstacles they experience in their lives as well. It’s a strange yet satisfying dynamic seeing these children struggle to survive not only a supernatural force but an eerily negligent township with creepy adults that don’t seem to care about their well-being. Standout performances include Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame as loudmouth Richie Tozier and Jaeden Lieberher in the role of the stuttering Bill Denbrough.
The Dancing Clown: Swedish-born actor Bill Skarsgård is cast in the role of the infamous Pennywise, putting his own spin on the character formerly portrayed by the flamboyant Tim Curry. This is without a doubt the tragic flaw that dampens an otherwise powerful narrative. Skarsgård’s performance is anything but subtle, consisting of slack-jawed, spacey expressions and line deliveries that come off as humorous instead of chilling. The entity of “It” is supposed to emanate an essence of sinister mystery, something that lures children away from what they know into a corrupted innocence. While Skarsgård attempts to draw out the scary factor, his sporadic appearances ironically seem intrusive to the children’s storylines, even though he is supposed to be their adversary. Pennywise the clown is then rendered to a cheap jump scare used to get mass audiences into the theatre and occasionally annoy the protagonists with “spooky” fast running. Most of the terror comes when Pennywise is shapeshifting into other forms or conjuring visions to trick the Loser’s Club as opposed to his glaring clown form.
Page to Screen: Stephen King’s writing style can sometimes make it difficult to translate certain ideas into film form, It being a challenging case in itself. The movie does a fantastic job of managing the timeline well while leaving the opportunity open for more installments in the future. The plot is concisely wrapped in a nice package that will leave viewers satisfied in the end, especially with a climactic showdown that trumps most other contemporary scary movie contenders. The only question remains whether a sequel can measure up to the perfect chemistry of this pseudo-paranormal Stand By Me bunch.