Last fall, coulrophobia (the phobia of clowns) spread rapidly throughout the public’s minds when many reported sightings of suspicious-looking clowns spread across the news. It seems quite appropriate, then, that there should be a movie this year revolving around this reawakened fear. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the trailer for It, but I could honestly watch it over and over. It’s well-crafted, scary and certainly sells the most recent adaptation of Stephen King’s book by the same name. I’ve heard of the famous book and 1990 mini-series based on the book, but never read or watched them myself, so my experience with It is as a newcomer. Nonetheless, I eagerly anticipated the movie all summer and made sure to find friends who weren’t too scared to come watch the terrifying Pennywise with me.
Director Andy Muschietti, relatively new to the industry, previously worked on Mama (2013), another horror film that was met with generally positive reception. His prowess with the genre definitely comes across throughout It. The visuals are fantastic, evoking the atmosphere of a 1980s summer, as well as presenting nightmarish displays that chill and shock viewers. One visually striking scene that particularly sticks out is when seven year old Georgie Denbrough runs in the pouring rain chasing his paper boat, only to encounter Pennywise, “the Dancing Clown,” when his boat slips into the gutter. Bill Skarsgård is excellent as the movie’s monstrous villain. His malicious gaze and creepy tone and diction perfectly complement his equally scary makeup and costume. The young cast as a whole is superb, especially Finn Wolfhard as loud-mouthed jokester Richie Tozier and Jack Dylan Grazer as nervous hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak. Additionally, the dialogue is authentic, funny and spares no foul language.
What I really liked about the movie is how it does not romanticize childhood. While it does highlight moments of fun and innocence, it also portrays the hardships, vulnerability and anxiety that can come with being a kid. The characters are therefore relatable, and audiences want to see more of them to learn more about the depths of their lives, even though the movie may not fully satisfy this desire. It is renowned more as horror, but also functions as a coming-of-age story; we watch as the characters grow out of their insecurities, fears and entrapment into more confident, independent and bold beings. Another important theme is friendship; each child is weak when alone but, by uniting, the group of teens becomes braver and empathic.
While the film served its purpose well, it did lack a little in terms of its scares. The jump scares and hair-raising images were effective, but the pacing was uneven. If the movie had built up suspense throughout the plot rather than continuously squandering it, then it could have been even better. The sole female of the squad, Beverly Marsh, also could have been portrayed better. Her role as a love interest and sexual object (for the boys) was overly emphasized even though we catch glimpses of her interesting, kind and defiant personality. I would’ve liked to hear and see some of the characters more as well, such as Stan (Wyatt Olef) and Mike (Chosen Jacobs). Lastly, the movie left viewers with a plethora of questions. This makes for great discussion but also creates frustration. However, this is the first film of a duology, so perhaps that was the intended purpose. I know I am already waiting to watch the sequel, which is rumored to be released in 2019.
For audiences looking for excitement but also heart, It is a great choice, as long as you can handle clowns, surprise and the two put together. Overall, 4/5 stars.
Contact Gloria Han