IT is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, showcasing a supernatural realm (written by Stephen King) that no-one would dare step into- especially if you’re a victim of coulrophobia. Argentine film director, Andrés Muschietti, brings King’s novel to life in the most raw and horrifying manner possible; but that’s what IT is all about when it comes to a well-constructed horror film. Nevertheless, is the revival of this 80’s novel in for a big hit or a massive miss?
First off, although King’s 1986 novel phenomenon is set in the 50s, Muschietti and screenwriters, (Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman); decided to move the timeline forward to 30 years, setting it to the late 1980s. Despite the risk, the filmmakers do a splendid job in still capturing the dark and twisted written essence of the story and transforming the writing into a visual wonder.
The movie comes with a half-dozen young misfit, but dynamic characters (otherwise self-labelled as the Losers Club) who are smoothly introduced into the film. Starting with Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), who is the first victim of Pennywise; Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike (Chosen Jacobs); Richie (‘Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stan (Wyatt Oleff); and Beverly (Sophia Lillis). Rather than cramming a whole heap of characters into a short scene, Muschietti makes sure to spread out each character’s introduction so that we can understand, analyse, and empathize with them as young innocent kids rather than props and key elements for a horror film- especially for later.
What makes this film standout among most horror films is how abstractly it abides to some or most elements of King’s novel as opposed to just focusing on jump scares and screams of terror- which are a chaotic and profound duo, but this film takes it a step further in the sense that you gain an emotional connection with the young characters that are victims of the supernatural entity and clown-disguised villain, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård); who returns to the town of Derry every 27 years. Nevertheless, you begin to feel their pain, sorrow and fears as well as empathizing with them whenever they encounter the ghoulish being.
Each character has their own trials that they are faced with throughout the film, but they simultaneously bring a profound significance into the film’s purpose as well; in that they band together to face the demon Pennywise, without forgetting that they are still kids so there’s a vast amount of gallows humour, kid banter and jokes that make for an ideal balance amongst the adversity that these kids are slammed with. The whole Stand by Me, Now and Then, The Goonies vibes that exude from this film are what add that additional magic to this terrifying film- it adds that idealist and optimistic persona in the sense that things could get better for these misfit kids.
Furthermore, it’s essential to not dismiss the main component of the film that most of us had been waiting on- and that’s the scare factor for the IT film. Newly known Skarsgård artistically crafts one of the most authentic visions of a supernatural villain in modern horror- his subtle expressions cause for even more suspense among the viewer, and one scene where he spine-chillingly smiles while holding a bloody ripped-off arm doesn’t make it any easier for the faint hearted.
What amazed me was how Muschietti explored Pennywise’s supernatural abilities to tap into someone’s worst fears. He succeeded in this element but went a step further by digging deeper into the characters’ psyche and picking at their most delicate, vulnerable and weakest points (as opposed to just basing off on the conventional horror movie fears being wolves, mummies, etc.) such as: guilt, loneliness, insecurity, feelings of hopelessness. Skarsgård depiction of Pennywise is definitely a different approach to Tim Curry’s rendition in the 90s miniseries, for there is seldom comedy and only nightmares to be made for quite some time.
Overall, there may have been some scenes that dragged or weren’t that significant towards the process of the film; however, the structure was done exceptionally well and the misfit cast gracefully correlated together and not to forget- the villain would have certainly provoked some unknown fears among the viewer.