Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the clown in It.
The 2017 remake of Stephen King’s iconic novel and 1991 miniseries It smashed the box office in its first few weeks on the big screen.
Defeating the record of The Exorcist (1973) for highest ever domestic gross of a horror film, It tells the story of a group of teenage kids who must overcome their worst nightmares to defeat a dark entity devastating the small and unusual town of Derry, Maine, in the 1980s. Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) loses his younger brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), in a freak accident on a gloomy day at the beginning of the film. When the gruesome child killings continue, Bill and his friends decide to uncover the truth and face a murderous clown that takes the shape of each of their biggest fears. The group bikes through Derry on the hunt for monsters, escaping the wrath of a trio of older bullies and making endearingly crude jokes for a comedic change of pace in an otherwise discomforting movie. While the film fails to completely revolutionize classic horror movie tropes or create unexpected plot twists, It is saved by a spectacular cast of kids, complex and psychological themes, and an intriguing plot that is distinctly Stephen King.
It is not a movie for the faint-hearted: King accomplishes what he does best and taps into the deepest fears of his audience. The manifestation of fear in a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) who terrorizes the children and residents of Derry is a terrifying concept. Skarsgård’s sporadic movements and frightening makeup are unsettling to those with a fear of clowns, and there are several particularly horrifying scenes in which Pennywise stalks and chases the kids, laughing maniacally the entire time. The film is also a psychological horror movie, leaving viewers questioning what is real and what is not as the story progresses through a hallucinogenic series of nightmares, topped with blood, broken limbs, and unknown creatures.
The cinematography, special effects, and music make It a spectacularly artistic horror film with an odd mix of grisly themes and beautiful scenes. The overall feeling of the movie is very dark, as is typical of any Stephen King production, though there are also many heartwarming moments between the kids that do well to ease the tension between scares. Perhaps the most outstanding part about It is its stunning cast of young actors. Each character has his or her own story to tell and fear to overcome, and the chosen cast really brings King’s characters in the novel to life. A particularly noteworthy character is Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), the only girl in the group, who carries with her a sort of graceful confidence as she learns to deal with being bullied by both the girls at her school and her abusive father at home. Lillis portrays Beverly as a girl that young audience members can look up to as she navigates her way through adolescence and finds her own courage.
While the overall quality of It is impressive, it is unable to strongly distinguish itself from the other horror movies of our time. There are no huge twists when it comes to plot, and although the clown is, indeed, the character everyone in the theater has paid money to see, he is slightly impersonal when it comes to actually deeply scaring audience members. “It” has frequent time on screen that may come across as a bit annoying to some viewers, and his overall presence is not quite as monstrous as one might think going into the film. The end provides almost a bit too much closure and is rather expected; the feeling of horror does not follow the viewers as they exit the theater.
Nevertheless, it has recently been announced that It: Chapter Two will be released in just a couple years’ time; with a release date of September 6, 2019 confirmed by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. Chapter Two will take place in the present-day and follow the same group of characters as adults, now having moved to different places across the country, as they band together to try and defeat the monster once more after learning of its sudden reappearance in Derry.
If you are looking for a good scary movie to watch just in time for Halloween, It is a solid choice. Hardcore horror fans will appreciate the intricate plot and roundness of characters, while beginner thrill seekers will also find fear in the grotesque title creature. King’s newest film is a classically thrilling horror movie with jump scares and outstanding special effects, but none so shocking that will keep you from sleeping at night.