The beloved Stephen King adaptation has finally hit the screens after much publicity and discussion. There is no need for comparisons with this one, to book or TV series- it’s a standalone breed of its own.
The story of Derry and the children that reside in it is well known; The Losers Club discovers that ‘something’ has been snatching their peers in a 27 year cycle, a cycle Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) hopes to break after losing his brother Georgie to ‘it’. And It happens to be Pennywise the Dancing Clown, an otherworldly being that knows the children’s deepest fears.
Audiences had a general idea of what to expect from the previously mentioned advertisements, which mostly showcased the clown (Bill Skarsgard) and the kids together. However, the trailers and promotions left out the fact that it’s an interesting blend of comedy and horror, a type that is the farthest thing from campy or ironic. Richie (Finn Wolfhard) has always been the wisecracking member of the club and he lives true to his reputation with non-stop jokes in the most inappropriate (but oddly appropriate) times. There were a few moments during It that you were wide eyed and almost afraid but then the kids make you laugh. It was an odd sensation but a welcome one.
When you separate the mixture of horror and comedy, both components are fiercely strong.
The Losers Club are a bunch of potty mouth, wiry kids with individual baggage that they try (and fail) to hide from one another. The banter between Richie and Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) is golden and truly joyful as an adult to watch, despite saying ‘fuck’ every other breath. The director clearly knows how children act and what they really say, so he allowed them to go there and maybe a bit beyond the tact meter. But hey, fuck it. It was fucking hilarious. Those child actors probably had an absolute ball making their parents shake their heads. Other than the comedic relationship of the club, they all stood alone as individuals, which is a great feat in itself. Bill was the fearless leader, as expected, and the actor knew what that role meant and how it should be portrayed by someone his age. Beverly (Sophia Lillis) personified true fearlessness to both imaginary and real terrors throughout. Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) felt slightly out of place, as his age seemed much younger than the rest of the gang and his presence on the screen felt more receded. Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) had less screen time but he made good use of it.
Alright, the juicy bits now. The scary bits. The HORROR of it all. To be frank, there was a lot of Pennywise, which could be seen as good or bad. The good side is that Pennywise was enchanting to watch as himself; you held onto his every word and examined his off-kilter eyes with every syllable for an inkling of a clue as to his next action. He was also freaky as hell when he transformed into other scares, and there are quite a few different “monsters” or scary parts to terrorize every movie goer. Admittedly, they weren’t hellishly nightmarish but they do catch you off guard- but not in a cheap way. A couple stand out even now and that’s always a great thing for a horror fan. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch features yelling, screaming children and shrill violins to set the mood even darker too. Long story short; Skarsgard nailed It (PUNZ) and this is not a movie to bring your 10 year old to (or 16 year old that can’t handle saying the word ‘penis’ yet).
It was something of a revival for the genre. It was so anticipated and had so much debate around that you couldn’t help but be intrigued by its very presence, let alone by the outcome. The buzz was enough to spark the fans to life and the excitement for Chapter Two will be even more feverish after viewing the first half. Every horror fan in every generation should experience something close to this, a film that doesn’t just merge, but adds to, the genre that they hold so dear.
Coming to a close, It was a horror film that took itself seriously and was abundantly confident with every choice it made. It didn’t back down or shy away from its origin, the novel about children being eaten by a creature. It wasn’t afraid to go down the path where it had to go in order for it to be both truthful and successful. The Muschiettis showed the nasty bits, they said the dirty things lurking in one’s mind, and they took the time to think about what fear is and how the definition differentiates for grownups and kids. It was an adaptation for sure but it didn’t lose sight of its goal once; to tell the story of Derry and its murdered, floating children.