Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis
Runtime: 135 minutes
Makin' Pronouns Scary Since 1986
There are many nouns in the English language that require no preceding adjective to understand the concept without being inherently redundant. For example, you would never say wet water, bright sun, cheating Patriots or sunburned ginger, because all of those descriptions are constant and fully assumed. Perhaps the greatest example of this unnecessary use of adjectives is “creepy demonic cannibalistic clown.” All three of those characteristics are known at the simple sight of frilly pants and a red balloon.
We, in part, have Stephen King’s novel It to thank for this phenomenon. The aforementioned novel tells the story of a group of kids who call themselves “the losers club” fighting a monster that frequently shows itself as a clown when no one else will do anything about the constant disappearance of children in town. Part two involves all the members of the losers club returning to the town as adults to finish off the monster for good. “It” is a loose adaptation of part one of this story.
In addition to being an adaptation, this new version of “It” is also a remake of part one of the 1990 Emmy award-winning miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise (the clown). Normally, I am vehemently against remakes. I would much prefer original content than rehashing stories we’ve already seen. However, having recently watched the original “It” again, I can confirm that there was a big opportunity for a remake. Take, for example, the image below:
That is a real screenshot from the film. I can’t make this stuff up.
While the bones of the story and child-acting in the original are still excellent, many of the scenes that are supposed to be “scary” are stunted by truly horrible CGI and the dated cheesiness of the screenwriting. I am pleased to say that this remake improves in almost every way over the original. That’s a remake I can get behind.
Without further ado, we must ask the first question required of every horror film: Is it scary? In short, yes, but not necessarily in expected ways. “It” contains many traditional horror set pieces, telegraphing most jump scares enough to where a seasoned horror viewer could spot them before they happen. By and large, these are effective and fun regardless due to Bill Skarsgård’s fantastic performance as Pennywise.
However, it’s when the film takes a more subtle approach that it really starts to give some heebie-jeebies and rustle some jimmies. Throughout the film, many frightening details occur in the background that you might miss entirely if you aren’t paying close attention. For example, a creepy old woman just smiling at a kid while he’s reading a book or the television talking about how fun it is to play in the sewer with the clown. Additionally, the near-constant use of tilted cinematography never lets you get comfortable, even when you have no reason to believe that Pennywise is close.
This attention to detail and creative approach balances out some of the more conventional scares, ensuring that the film has something that will give everyone the willies. However, where “It” really succeeds isn’t in its undeniably effective horror, but in it’s masterful storytelling.
Many horror movies anchor themselves around the monster, making minor details like plot, overall quality and good characters an afterthought serving simply to lead you to the next scare. On the other hand, “It” isn’t a story about Pennywise. It’s a story about the losers club and its members trying to navigate life in Derry together, each with their own imperfections, concerns and reasons to need each other. “It” is a coming-of-age tale with horror elements that serve to bolster the story and the characters, not the other way around.
Speaking of the losers club, this film has one heck of an ensemble. Every child actor is astoundingly talented (except for maybe whoever plays Stanley, sorry kid). The writing allows them to display a wide range of talent, as the film truly is surprisingly funny at times because of these kids. This group and their interactions are what elevate this film from really good to shockingly great, especially considered the central themes of the film.
“It” is a film about the importance of community. The film is very clear that if these kids aren’t facing this thing together, the only other option is death. Not just any death, mind you. A holy-crap-a-freaking-clown-is-literally-going-to-tear-me-limb-from-limb-and-consume-me-with-no-leftovers-for-lunch-tomorrow death. On their own, they stand no chance against not only Pennywise, but also their more “real-world” fears like loneliness, abuse, bullies, not being good enough, guilt, anxiety, and the list goes on.
“It” capitalizes on the fundamental, Biblical truth that man was not meant to be alone. A key line from the film states, “Ain’t nothing like a little fear to make a paper man crumble.” In a world where we each have our own Pennywise(s), whatever they may be, we are all paper men. And when we crumble, a supportive, encouraging community that bears one another’s burdens is a life-or-death necessity.
Overall, “It” might just be the best horror film of the year so far (it depends on if you count “Get Out” as a horror film, which I don’t). With a tight script that both embraces and defies conventions, great performances across the board and more heart than any horror film could realistically be expected to have, “It” cannot and should not be ignored. Any film that can make every member of the audience laugh, scream and clap in unison is a win in my book.
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Shout out to all my friends who hate horror movies that came to see “It” with me. Your screams and smiles were the best birthday present I could’ve asked for. For those of you not in that group reading this, if I’m spontaneously murdered sometime in the next 48 hours, consider them all suspects.