Director: Andy Muschietti
Run Time: 2h 15m
It takes many forms. All of which are top notch.
October 1988. Little Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) disappears leaving the town of Derry, Maine with one less child. The following June, the number of missing children continues to rise. Members of The Losers Club — Georgie’s older brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), and new kid Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) — start an investigation since the adults have given up all hope. There’s more than just the disappearances. There’s a symbol of fear haunting all of the children. It parades around as a clown, but It can take the form of whatever you fear most. The clown, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) lures the children of Derry to their demise and it’s up to the Losers to defeat him. That is…if they can stay afloat long enough to do so.
Just to go ahead and get this out of the way, I absolutely abhor the infamous TV version of It with Tim Curry in the titular role. I’ve seen it once and was utterly bored from start to finish. It was way too cheesy for my taste. If I was supposed to be afraid or on edge, It failed miserably. 2017’s It is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I loved this film! I was hard-pressed to find any issues and they are so few that it really doesn’t matter.
First of all, the highest praise is owed to this young cast. Liebherher and Wolfhard are quickly becoming acting veterans. Liebherher has starred opposite some of Hollywood’s biggest names — Bill Murray, Michael Shannon, Naomi Watts. His feature film debut was as Murray’s costar in St. Vincent and I knew then that this kid was amazing. Wolfhard of course is famous for his starring role in Netflix’s smash hit Stranger Things. But the other youngsters are just as amazing. You forget that these kids are barely teenagers because they carry the entirely of this film as if they’d been doing this for decades. As much as this film is classified as horror, there is a dramatic performance required that each one of them delivers perfectly.
As much as I could spend hours singing praises to the young cast, I would be remiss if I didn’t devote ample time to the creepy genius of Bill Skarsgård. He made the iconic Pennywise his own while still holding true to the soul of Stephen King’s story. Pennywise the Dancing Clown was one of the creepiest entities ever to grace the big screen. From the moment we meet Skarsgård’s Pennywise it’s evident that he will set the audience on edge every time we see him. The reason I will watch It over and over again for years to come is equal parts Skarsgård and the Losers.
The story was of course derived from the twisted mind of horror legend, Stephen King. He has produced some of the most iconic stories in horror history. Truth be told, I have not been a fan of every film adaptation, but that is not a credit owed to King. He is a master of narrative and his stories are just as complex as they are f***ed up. It is no different. There are so many layers to the Losers’ stories. It’s a coming-of-age tale, much like Stand By Me, that just happens to be a horrific masterpiece. I think what struck me the most was Muschietti’s ability to capture King’s horror and heart equally to provide the viewer with a diverse experience that wasn’t just screams and gore.
Now. Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of gore. Within the first five minutes we watch a limb get torn off. It sets the tone for the whole film. “We’re not f***ing around” is the motto from the get-go. Part of Pennywise’s torment is his ability to become whatever the children fear most. Some fears are very direct and gruesome, while others are very abstract and their horror is in the subtext of their meaning. No matter the approach, these kids fear an array of haunts and they all make their sinister appearances on screen.
A common problem in a horror flick is the use of exposition. There’s usually a kid who googles too much or an old lady who knows too much and fills in the main characters — as well as the audience — on the events that make the plot plausible. Too often this is an obvious attempt and we are forced out of the narrative to gain information that may or may not be all the vital. With It we are blessed with Ben. While he offers a majority of the facts, his character is structured so it makes sense. He’s the new kid in town with zero friends so he spends time in the library researching random topics. Most notably: his new town. While all of the Losers offer explanations that allow the plot to propel forward, Ben can fill in the blanks necessary to close any gaps in the children’s assumptions. Not once does this feel as forced as a typical horror movie and for that I am grateful.
It relies on its unsettling story and subplots to give the audience a terrifying experience. It doesn’t need the jump scares and mindless gore that horror movies seem to adopt nowadays. Just like King himself, it provides horror and heart with a killer cast making it a triple threat to the cinematic world. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic to recommend It to the masses. You’ll float too!
Stephen King knows the nature of children growing up too quickly in the face of horror. His infamous Stand By Me is testament that he knows how to speak to the soul as much as he knows how to scare it.
Seeing as the new season premiers just a few short weeks, I highly recommend binge-watching the first season Stranger Things now. Just like It, the show relies on a stellar young cast taking on the supernatural in the 1980’s.