Don’t Be Afraid…
Horror movies have never been my forte, and that’s mostly due to the fact that I am easily scared. I occasionally can not handle the simplest scares but in the end I still end up being alright with it. In addition, most horror movies undergo the same tropes lacking any depth that should make movies great. After walking out of It, I can say that I have never been more terrified during a movie but I am ecstatic that I chose to see it. It is a truly haunting experience that keeps you on the edge of your seat but at its core, it is really a movie that has heart and provides an excellent narrative that help it stand apart from other horror movies even without its creepy clown.
The story focuses on a group of seven children known as “The Loser’s Club” as they navigate their summer vacation in their small town of Derry, Maine. Children are starting to disappear and there is a true horror in the air that no one wants to address. They start to experience increasingly vivid versions of their fears being personified by Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) who preys on the children’s dread. The Loser’s Club must band together to overcome their personal fears to battle the murderous clown.
Most horror movies elect to focus on their villain more than the protagonists, and while Pennywise does get his gleeful time in the spotlight this is a movie about the kids. The kids in this movie work extremely well together and capture the true essence of being a child. From their spot on dialogue to the way they exacerbates their fears, you feel these children are actually human beings and not just disposable characters for Pennywise to play with. They are each given proper development to showcase their struggles in their personal life as well as their fears. Some characters do get short changed, but as a whole this group of kids is solid and carries the movie.
Each kid gets their time in the spotlight which is how the movie adds depth to their character. There are separate points throughout the movie where each one must deal with their own personal fear. These fears are brought to life in a truly haunting and magnificent way that terrorizes not only the kids but the audience as well. Each fear they experience is tense, and seeing how they deal with them individually is where the heart of the film lies. You see them cower in fear, strategize, and attempt to face the demons within themselves for better or worse.
Even without a murderous clown, the kids hold their own in this movie. The movie is not really about the entity that is haunting their town, but rather a coming of age story on facing your demons. It is beautifully encapsulated and quite terrifying at times that enriches the movie to a new level that could just be about the kids. Seeing them interact and deal with situations is entrancing and allows them to succeed on their own merits.
But this film does have a murderous clown played happily and creepily by Skarsgard. Pennywise is not just haunting and terrifying, he is also appalling and dare I say seductive at times. Skarsgard truly captures what everyone fears about clowns and takes it up a notch. This is not your typical clown that you find creepy, this is someone else…something else. The image of him will haunt you even weeks after you have seen the movie.
What makes Pennywise all the more interesting is his interaction with the kids. He is bringing out the worst fears they have and preying on them constantly. There is a sense that he is toying with them for his own maniacal pleasure not really wanting to have a plan. He is torturing these kids for the fun of it and that is what makes him a fantastic antagonist for these kids.
This all culminates in a beautifully haunting and satisfying conclusion in which all the kids band together to take Pennywise down. He changes form, intensifies the fears, and gives everything he’s got to get what he wants from the kids. The fears are stirring and make the viewer all the more tense with adrenaline running high as the film gears further along.
In terms of flaws, there are few to be noted in an otherwise excellent film but ultimately do not detract from the experience. The film is extremely graphic which may not bother people but I was definitely deeply disturbed from all the grotesque imagery laid before me. This is probably more to the films credit, but it did bother me. The film does make sure you know what you’re getting into from the very beginning and that tone is carried through.
As I mentioned earlier, each child is given their time with Pennywise individually. While the set pieces are different, there is a sense of repetitiveness to their encounters that can detract from their fear. But even with the pattern is noticed, it is all in an attempt to build to the films truly horrifying conclusion that makes the monotony worth it.
It could have easily focused on Pennywise and how he preys on the child to get what he wants, but that’s not the case. The film wisely focuses on the group of protagonists and builds them up strongly to have a sense of depth. In doing so, it allows the true horror to be properly exemplified and cared about instead of cast aside. Pennywise is a worthy adversary for this group of children and Skarsgard plays the part with a frightening persona that will stay with you for weeks to come. These kids had true fears to face and growing up to do and seeing this progression makes the film worth it alone. Just make sure you sleep with the lights on for a few days…