|Principal Cast||Bill Skarsgard as It/Pennywise|
Jaeden Lieberher as Bill
Sophia Lillis as Beverly
Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben
Finn Wolfhard as Richie
Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie
Wyatt Oleff as Stanley
Chosen Jacobs as Mike
Nicholas Hamilton as Henry
|Running Time||135 minutes|
A GOOD horror movie I could go see with my friends. That’s the sentiment I’d use to best describe my relation to It. After a few years without a solid mainstream hit like The Conjuring and Insidious , I was worried I’d never get to see a horror movie with my friends again. If you’ve read my reviews you know I have a taste for weird art-house movies. It’s a sentiment my friends usually don’t share, so most of my horror experiences are solo adventures. Whenever a horror movie is good and lends itself to being accepted by a wider audience, I take notice. It is exactly that kind of movie. This adaptation of King’s highly regarded novel blends genuine horror with an interesting one of a kind story to great effect. The movie simultaneously vivid for enough for fans who like more visual scares, but has enough subtext to keep the annoying self-proclaimed cinephile friend you have (like me) occupied.
The story follows the Losers club, a group of 7 kids living in Derry,Maine , who are forced to confront the shape-shifting entity, It. It, normally taking the form of Pennywise the clown, constantly morphs into the children’s worst fears, so as they find a way to deal with the supernatural presence they’re forced to confront their fears and doubts in the open. It’s a beautiful melding of coming-of-age and supernatural horror that takes relatable fears a lot of us have had and amplifies them to the nth degree. Having It’s manifestations be related to the characters at such an intimate level also keeps the subsequent scares memorable and more terrifying. Knowing there’s a malevolent entity that’s enjoying torturing you and your friends, waiting to eat you at the end of all of it would make any adult cry, let alone a middle school kid who’s just at the beginning of their introspective journey.
This is made all the better by how well (almost) each of the Losers is characterized and developed. Bill, the de-facto leader of the group is traumatized after losing his brother to It and feels a deep sense of personal guilty and responsibility to rectify the situation. Beverly, the ostracized and slut-shamed girl at school, finds a new home in the group as they give her a place to feel safe. Ben’s the nerd of the group and always has intel on what’s going on. Richie is the smart ass, constantly making light of the situation and providing the comic relief. Eddie, is a germaphobe with a serious case of smothering mother. Stanley is the scaredy cat of group and Mike is the home-schooled kid who also happens to be one of the only black people in Derry. Every performance is top notch and the characters genuinely feel like kids who are out and about trying to figure out what’s going on. They all feel like real kids with real problems going through a horrifying situation that they can’t control. Watching them grow and develop in the adversity is both exciting because of the nature of the dangers that await the group, and touching because of the way the situation reminded me of my childhood.
For the most part each character is given an appropriate time to develop. Seeing them as individuals and in a larger group for extended periods of time makes noticing the subtleties of their friendship more rewarding. The group doesn’t start off singing Hakuna Matata because it’s made up of multiple clusters of friends that intersect with common points of contact. Everyone has a different relationship with everyone else so they have to learn how to navigate their broader social environment. All that connects the group is their shared condition as outcasts. The combination of all the characteristics under one moniker, combined with the easily relatable themes, makes getting invested in the story easy. Hell, at some point in my life, I would have found myself in the Losers club and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
The most surprising aspect of the movie to me is just how scary Pennywise comes off as. It’s not just the special effects or the fact that the scares are intimately connected to the characters.It’s (no pun intended) the man under the makeup – Bill Skarsgaard. He absolutely sells Pennywise’s delight in torturing the children with how enthusiastically he throws himself in rushing at them or making fun of them with a litany of sarcastic jabs. He’s childlike in the way he laughs at his own jokes or the way he relishes in his “pranks”. It comes off as a perversion of innocence, which is exactly the point. Definitely one of the best horror villains and performances of the past decade.
Unfortunately, by making the movie more mainstream, especially in the use of cheap jump scare noises, the horror feel a lot less memorable or mesmerizing. It is scary and watching the creature torment the children as their worst possible fears is scary enough. I know jump scares are popular, and I’m not saying the movie needed to get rid of all of them, but I think it should’ve taken a more controlled approach to maximize the effect they have. Some of the It vs Loser sequences are genuinely unique and fun to watch. It’s a shame that they don’t get to shine on their own and get drowned out by a loud noise telling you to be scared. The third act also diminishes the tension of scare sequences by injecting random bits of humor that really ruined the tension that had been building up to then.
Certain characters get little to no love development wise and it makes them stick out like sore thumbs when compared to the excellent moments everyone else gets. I’m okay with the bully characters having less time to shine because the main cast is so large, but Mike got done dirty. I feel like he barely has time to grow and gel with the group and I think the interactions between him and the others could have been more interesting. The movie hints that there’s a racial dynamic at play, but it’s only ever mentioned by the bully and doesn’t feel like it’s as incorporated into the story. It’s a lot of missed potential that makes his inclusion feel odd.
|TLDR||It manages to be unique while being mainstream enough to watch with friends. The clever coming-of-age story is relatable to everyone who ever grew up afraid of something, and the characters and their respective tribulations will get you invested in the story, no matter how wonky some events play out. Some themes and characters aren’t properly developed which hold the movie back from being a true masterpiece, but it’s a hell of a fun time regardless.|