For 2-hours and some change I sat terrified for a group of children battling an evil entity in the form of their greatest fears. For much of the film, IT is disguised as Pennywise The Dancing Clown. His cranium is massive, with red hair curling all over. Most noticeable about Penny-wise are his glowing and off-center eyes, which sit above his gaping mouth and rabbit buck teeth. He’s unsettling to look at for more than a few seconds, but with each passing moment Pennywise only grows more sadistic in his quest to harvest on the fear of he children in Derry.
It all started when little Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) went missing in 1988 after following his paper boat to the sewers. For the year following his disappearance, his older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) has been pondering all the routes the sewers could have taken him. As Summer approaches, Bill and his friends “The Losers” spend their time outrunning wild bullies and searching deeper into the mysteries of Derry and all the children who go missing there. “The Losers” include: Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and Beverly (Sophia Lillis).
I’d never read Steven King’s horror classic of which this film is based, nor had I seen the full mini-series adaptation with Tim Curry. All I knew was that there’s an evil clown abducting children and when I sat in the theater for this film I was nervously excited. Scary movies and me have a strange relationship, but I found myself looking forward to this film since the first trailer. There’s a dark air around this story and the fact that it centers completely around children makes it even more creepy.
I wasn’t prepared for a lot of the gruesome and gory imagery in this film given my unfamiliarity with the story, but it certainly stuck with me and left a lasting impact. Children running and screaming as they face manifestations of their worst fears, sadistic clown chases, and many more unsettling scenarios that sink you further into your seat. It’s insanely easy to plant yourselves into the fear of the kids because fear is something that runs our most basic instincts. This film and it’s score refuse to let you breathe for too long, as sounds and noises feel like they’re creeping up your spine and to your ears. (I saw the film in IMAX and it rocked my world. The soundtrack and sound effects were beyond effective with taking me into this story)
While there’s a lot of horror and genuine terror in this film, It is not without some truly hysterical moments and that’s thanks to cast whom completely nail the essence of being 13. The acting all around is sensational as it’s truly an ensemble project which is only strengthens as the film progresses. You grow to love and care for the safety and well-being of these smart-ass, but loveable losers. Jaden Leiberher and Finn Wolfhard have already established themselves in other works, but the rest of the cast is mostly fresh actors. Among them all, Sofia Lillis and Bill Skarsgard are the two standouts who you’re going want to watch from here on out. Lillis channels a young Amy Adams, while also creating such a complete and wholesome character in Beverly. She looks the most natural among the group and everytime she’s on-screen she brings an incredible amount of emotion to the situation.
Despite not being able to get Skarsgards creepy clown voice and stare out of my head, I immediately went to see this movie again the next day. It’s all I could think about and delivered even better a second time. His Pennywise is so casual in his devilish ways that I was beginning to feel sick. They way he would look and walk was enough to make me want to shut my eyes. His approaches towards the children start casual and build into these intense series of terror. There’s an intense level of emotion in this story and it tackles a lot of home and life situations that everyone experienced growing up at some point or another. The Stand By Me comradery the group shares as they experience all sorts of craziness is so wonderful to watch and it makes the themes of this film much clearer.
Director Andy Muschietti proved capable of creepy horror with a strong emotional pull with Mama, but he really did a hell of a job with IT. The film is shot magnificently and his use of camera work and images intensifies the horror of the scene you’re watching. Cary Fukunaga and Chase Palmer’s script has created something both sinister and sincere in this story of death and torment because they treat their characters as real children. Some have griped about the film not being as scary as they hoped and while this film certainly sets out to shake you up, it’s not all about the horror. There’s a dark and scary story at the center and it seems as if this film is only the beginning of that darkness. So, make your own mind up and go get terrified seeing this movie!