Jungle
IT

It

Movie
Director(s): 
Genre: 
In Theatres: 
Sep 08, 2017
Grade:
A-
Running Time: 
135 minutes

In 1990, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, portrayed brilliantly by Tim Curry, terrorized the children of Derry, Maine in the TV miniseries IT. According to the legend, every 27 years the demonic entity awakens to feast of the fears of children. Well here we are, 27 years after the miniseries debuted on ABC, and Pennywise has returned, only this time he’s on the big screen, and he’s much more frightening.

 

Based upon Stephen King’s novel by the same name, IT follows a group of children, known as the Loser Club, in Derry, Maine as they investigate the sudden disappearances of multiple kids around the town. The leader of the group is Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), who tragically lost his younger brother Georgie six months ago. He believes that everything is connected and that Georgie might still be alive. Every member of the group eventually comes face to face with Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a shape-shifting entity who terrorizes the kids by taking the form of their greatest fears in addition to being just an overall extremely creepy clown. Determined to defeat It so that no more children go missing, the Loser Club heads into the sewers to face their fears once and for all.

 

Whenever people mention scary clowns, Tim Curry’s performance in the original IT is one that always tops the list. There’s no question that Bill Skarsgård has big shoes to fill, no pun intended. The first thing I noticed is that Skarsgård’s version of Pennywise is nowhere near as happy-go-lucky as Curry’s. He’s pure terror, as evident by the opening scene in which he rips Georgie’s arm clean off and leaves him bleeding in street. I’m used to seeing gruesome things happen to adults in action and horror films but to see it happen to a group of kids takes horror to a new uncomfortable level.

 

There’s nothing childlike about the film. All of the kids deal with bullying, mostly at the hands of Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his thug friends. It’s not just name calling and pushing them around in the dirt, either. In one scene, Bowers begins to carve his name with a switchblade into the stomach of the young Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) as he screams in pain. Clowns aren’t the only thing these kids need to be afraid of. There’s also Bev (Sophia Lillis), the only female member of the Losers Club, who is dealing with sexual abuse at home at the hands of her father. Her scenes are perhaps the most disturbing parts of the film, and while we never see it explicitly happen we can clearly read between the lines of what her living situation is like. Pennywise will often manifest itself as someone or something else to take advantage of what frightens each of them, preying on their fears in the most diabolical manner.

 

The scares themselves can feel more tame when compared to the overall nature of the environment. Pennywise will often resort to charging towards the kids in a rapid and twitchy manner that works the first time, but then starts to feel repetitive. He works best from the shadows rather than fully in front of the camera. He’s definitely scary, but as the film goes on you can’t help but grow accustomed to his demeanor.

 

Despite the disturbing nature of the film, I was surprised to find out how much humor is still present. The interactions between the members of the Losers Club is where the heart of the film is. It’s easy to forget that we’re still dealing with kids on their summer vacation. In between the scenes of Pennywise’s terror, we do get to see them enjoy a day swimming at the quarry or go exploring. They constantly makes jokes at the expense of each others’ moms, too. IT brings the comradery of Stand By Me coupled with the psychological terror of The Shining.

 

IT will no doubt send shivers down your spine as it captures the best/worst of what makes us afraid. The film terrorizes your inner child, manifesting your fears on the big screen. Sure, clowns are scary, but the horrors we see in our everyday lives can be much scarier.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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