Few pop culture horror icons connect millennials like Stephen King’s “It”.
In fact, I’ve yet to meet anyone between the ages of 18 and 25 who hasn’t either seen the miniseries adaptation of King’s novel, or hasn’t seen an image of the story’s monster, Pennywise the clown. An entire generation is united in their knowledge and fear of this cult-classic creature.
In regards to both quality and scares, however, the 1990 miniseries just doesn’t hold up to the terrifying nature of the book. That is what makes the newly released adaptation of King’s novel so exciting. Now that the filmmakers have a larger budget and presumably a desire to get the story right, there’s a chance the movie will not only be better made, but also more terrifying.
Taking place in small town Derry, Maine, “It” (2017) focuses on a group of kids, known as the “Loser’s club,” who are being terrorized by Pennywise, a killer clown with unknown powers. As other children go missing in the town and the adults become more useless, the kids decide to take it upon themselves to defeat this evil.
First, we have to talk about Pennywise and how accurately he’s portrayed in this film. The idea of a killer clown with supernatural powers is a goofy idea on its own, but the filmmaking and performance from Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, works together to create a character who is truly horrifying.
He’s an unsettling force whose attempts to hide his true nature only make him more creepy. His failure to keep his composure only makes the scenes where he unhinges in grotesque and horrifying ways all the more effective. The film does a fantastic job of capturing his indescribable terror, making sure the bizarre and distressing imagery will stick with you.
There are also comedic moments which actually heighten the film’s horror. The goofy imagery gives you a false sense of security, which only makes you more tense, therefore making the payoff even more suspenseful and scarier.
Director Andy Muschietti is not only concerned with good scares, but also with making an engaging coming-of-age story. The film runs more than two hours, taking its time to develop the characters and their relationships.
The child actors do a great job at playing against dark subject matters and imagery, making their situations believable. Characters like Bill, whose little brother is killed by Pennywise, and Beverly, whose home situation is upsetting, to say the least, make for sympathetic heroes thanks to their performances.
Minor characters are portrayed brilliantly, even if they have little development beyond some basic problems at home. Yet, these kids’ situations never come off as tired or uninteresting, as the film is able to portray these plotlines in intelligent and effective ways.
This is a breath of fresh air when compared to the horror flicks recently released. Since the audience is invested into the well-being of the children, it makes the film not only more effective in creating suspense and terror, but encourages an emotional response to the characters.
That’s what is so interesting about this film — it’s not focused too heavily on cheap jump scares and plot devices. Instead it sets out to be a fantastic movie with engaging characters with believable interactions. Therefore,the normally overused and played out jumpscares lead to memorable moments of terror which feel earned and impactful.
“It” works not just because it has a scary monster, but because it’s a film that can be enjoyed even if the monster doesn’t scare you. It’s a well made, well acted and well thought out horror film that could have been too goofy or too dramatic. It is clear that the filmmakers knew what they wanted and were able to achieve a great balance of story and scares.
Samuel Goodrich, Staff Writer