Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard
Synopsis: A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
Genre: Drama, Horror
MPAA Rating: R (for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language)
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion.
It has the ability to influence our decisions and even control how we live our lives. It's a universal emotion that is felt and experienced by all human beings, and even other living things such as animals. Ultimately, It, whatever It is, will consume us if we don't fight back, rise above and conquer It.
Stephen King's highly successful '80s horror novel It is brought to new life in Andy Muschietti's new film adaptation. The premise is simple enough--a group of outcast kids discover that their small town of Derry, Maine is being stalked and terrorized by a shape-shifting, demonic being and set out on a quest to kill it.
It is one of those films that is enjoyable on several levels--it's technically savvy while also sporting smart, emotionally driven material that is sure to resonate with audiences, both the younger and older. Andy Muschietti directs the film, with It being only his second feature length film after Mama (2013). Muschietti successfully creates an atmospheric, visceral film that's greatly aided by its 1980's time period. The terror is real, the scares are well executed (at least for the most part) and the suspense and stakes are palpable. Technically-speaking, Muschietti directs with a sharp eye--using a handful of dutch angles and slow-motion to convey the twisted nature of the circumstances and situations while also using dark, damp environments like sewers to amplify the suspense. That being said, a surprising amount of the film takes place in broad daylight, yet Muschietti is still able to maintain the eerie atmosphere and brooding suspense, which is a feat that needs to be commended.
It is classified as a horror film and novel, but at its heart it’s a tale of the power of friendship. This is brought to life through It's impressive cast, which includes Finn Wolfhard, star of Netflix's hit sci-fi horror series Stranger Things. The child characters are ultimately what makes It such a success and what places it above other horror films. The performances are solid for sure, but what really shines is the chemistry the cast has with each other. They interact so realistically that you could swear they're friends in real life (and they probably are). The screenplay implements a substantial amount of humor in the kids' interactions, from Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) being a clean freak to smart sexual jokes or comments to the group's romantic interest in Beverly (Sophia Lillis). Because of the aforementioned chemistry amongst the cast, these comic relief moments are thoroughly enjoyable to watch and also serve to separate the scary and heartfelt moments.
It also contains dark, but relatable subject matter, such as abuse, and presents it without being preachy or overbearing. It also comments on the importance of friendship and the ability to face and overcome your fears. The shape shifting being that terrorizes the town of Derry feeds on the children's fears and tailors his appearance based on what each kid's unique fear is. It is only by resisting running away and instead confronting Pennywise that the children gain power over him--over It. The power of fear is real, and one scene in particular highlights this notion when a supposedly bold bully is reduced to nothing when his father aims a pistol at him.
It is one of the finest horror films made in recent years. Yes, it succeeds in the scare department, but what really pushes the film ahead of competitors are its smart subject matter, emotional depth, and humor. Stephen King should be praised first and foremost for the story, but Muschietti also needs commended for successfully blending several genres --horror, drama, romance, comedy, and the supernatural into one film that, at 2 hours and 15 minutes is still well paced and does not feel overly long. It is a prime example that a good horror movie not only needs scares, but also thought and heart behind it.