Movie review: IT

 

A figure dressed in a yellow raincoat with a red balloon hovering over their head. the balloon has the shape of a face on it

Illustration by Dorothy Gacioch | Washtenaw Voice

By Rebecca Gordon
Staff Writer

Stephen King’s “IT” is a classic horror flick, well known for Tim Curry’s stupendous portrayal of Pennywise the Clown. Twenty-seven years later, the clown and the New England town of Derry, are back with a fresher, more horrifying look and feel.

For those who are fans of the 1990 miniseries version or the novel upon which it is based, the 2017 film strays enough that the movie is not a carbon copy. For those who don’t know the story of “IT”, the movie recounts the experiences of seven children who are on a mission to defeat Pennywise, or It, a cannibalistic entity who regularly takes the form of a clown.

It is responsible for the disappearance of several children in Derry, including Bill’s younger brother Georgie. The seven, Bill, Ben, Mike, Richie, Stan, Eddie, and Beverly, appear to be the only people in Derry who sense something amiss, and It embodies everything that the seven fear most.

The namesake role of It, previously portrayed by Tim Curry, has been passed on to Bill Skarsgård in this film, who brings a whole new meaning to terrifying. While most of the creature’s moments in the film would not be classified as jump scares, the clown’s minutes on screen build tension and suspense, before leading to a satisfying fright.

Unlike the miniseries, where it’s only implied that the clown engages in cannibalism, within the first 10 minutes of “IT”, Pennywise makes it perfectly clear that he does. The brutality in the film puts the older version to shame, not entirely unexpected with an R-rated film over a televised miniseries.

The young actors brought in to portray the “Lucky Seven” in this version are phenomenal in their performances. They absolutely nailed adolescent bravery, contrariness, and innocence all in one go. Again, as an R-rated movie, the profanity and humor displayed by the young preteens, especially Richie, is of the more adult variety.

Not every character of the seven was given equal amounts of screen time or character development, but when it happened it was wholly satisfying to watch. In comparison to the original, storylines were altered and played with, without managing to mangle the film into a disappointing remake.

Being the catalyst in their quest to destroy Pennywise, Bill holds a special place in “IT”. Unable to accept his brother’s “disappearance”, Bill cajoles, guilts, and prompts the rest of the seven to figure out the mystery of Derry’s disappearances.

However well the young actor Jaeden Lieberher did in his performance as Bill, Finn Wolfhard as Richie managed to steal nearly every scene. The young jokester epitomizes “locker room talk” with his raunchy jokes and foul mouth, that still comes out in an endearing way.

Beverly, played by Sophia Lillis, manages to be everything one could hope for in the lone girl of the group. She is brave and confident, and while the object of more than one of the boy’s affections, never becomes the girl that breaks the group apart. Later on she even becomes the reason they band together.

What seems like the culmination of the groups search leads to one of the most suspenseful scenes in the whole movie, and one of its blandest points. In Richie’s turn to experience his “fear”, the scene ends up falling flat, less due to his performance than just being predictable in its attempt. It just didn’t hit the terror level the movie was going for. A small section, which almost balances the horror of the next scene; the whole group finally face to face with Pennywise.

Some internal drama ends with the group parting ways, before coming back again to take down the monster. The final confrontation with Pennywise is both less horrifying than his haunting of the children, and also sheds more light on the circumstances of his being.

Ending on a high note, everyone trickling away one by one, the film seems to close with a finality that eludes to success. However, the clown is said to reappear every 27 years, and a part two is currently being wildly speculated.

Who could possibly portray the adult versions of the wonderfully acted child roles is something for another day.

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