It (2017) Movie Review

Is the new Stephen King adaptation IT as terrifying as the trailers and images floating (“You’ll float too”) around the internet might suggest? That probably depends on what your fear factor is of scary clowns.  But as someone who wasn’t necessarily scared during the admittedly creepy imagery in the film, IT is definitely entertaining. Combining a handful of nightmare-inducing images with plenty of laughs, IT should please audiences who are looking for a dark funhouse horror movie.

IT follows a group of bullied kids who have labeled themselves “the loser’s club” as their small town is terrorized by an an evil supernatural clown named Pennywise who feeds on children’s fear.

Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis in It

Based on Stephen King’s 1138 page novel that was later turned into a two-part mini-series in 1990, IT is a story that deserves a modern reboot. While moderately effective at the time, the made for television adaption is terribly dated with the exception of a few interesting scenes and a frightening performance from Tim Curry as Pennywise.  A proper feature film giving the iconic horror atagonist Pennywise his full due is a long time coming.

Who is the new man in the horrifying clown suit? Embodying the insanity of evil, Bill Skarsgard gives an electrifying performance as Pennywise.  Special kudos to the art direction, makeup, costuming, and special effects which all help create the terror. The images alone are unnerving enough and director Andy Muschietti understands that the meat of his scares relies heavily on his monster, Pennywise. I’m not sure Muschietti, who previously directed MAMA, still fully grasps how to utilize technique to elicit tension and make a truly great horror film. But he creates the right environment for the characters and establishes an enjoyable tone in a 1989 small town summer setting. The film never lingers too long without a little Pennywise involvement to keep the audience captivated. In between those moments we are treated to some rather strong performances by a group of child actors who carry the story with sympathy and humor.

Bill Skarsgard in It

While there isn’t enough time to fully develop all the characters, each one has their moments and defined traits.  Their struggles of growing up at school and home mirror their battle with Pennywise. Some of the most terrifying moments are the more tangible fears of being bullied, mistreated, or ignored from other kids and adults alike.  The standouts are: Jaeden Lieberher (ST. VINCENT, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL) as Bill, the stuttering group leader whose little brother is the first of many missing children from Pennywise, Sophia Lillis as Beverly, the lone female who deals with promiscuity rumors and an equally evil horror from her home life, and Finn Wolfhard (playing a very different character than his leading role in Stranger Things) as Richie, the ultra thick glasses-wearing foul mouthed comic relief.

Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis in It

IT never quite delivers the edge-of-your-seat type of scares that perhaps true horror fans are looking for. Nor does it quite capture the children as well as other films with an all child cast (GOONIES, STAND BY ME, E.T.). The score sometimes feels a little forced or even cheap during quieter dramatic moments. Kids are sometimes calmly exploring danger rather than running away from it screaming. The R-rated, two hour and fifteen minute horror film could probably stand to be a touch shorter. And it doesn’t help that just last year, Netflix delivered an amazing series within a similar genre called Stranger Things that delivered all of those elements perfectly.

However, IT is definitely creepy with some exquisitely chilling scenes. IT delivers the horror in a fun, community atmosphere better than anything we’ve seen at the theater recently.  While I may not have personally been “scared,” I definitely fell for a couple of solid “jump” moments and looked forward to watching Pennywise every time It was on screen. IT is a dark, funny, terrifically entertaining horror film that will provoke both screams and laughs at the theater.

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