Coulrophobia is back people. The original mini-series of It became an instant cult classic and if you ask any adult what terrified them as child, Tim Curry’s comical yet terrifying image as Pennywise will probably be on the list. Andy Muschietti’s re-imagining takes The Losers Club as kids which was easily the best part about the mini-series and fleshes it out allowing for more content from the books whilst attempting to not overdo itself. I won’t lie when the failure of The Dark Tower made me a little paranoid on the success of It, but from the moment we see the famous Georgie and Pennywise scene, my paranoia was washed away than Georgie’s boat.
It has probably the best character development of any film this year. The kids in The Loser’s Club are all fantastic with each child given their own time to develop and to connect with the audience. I guarantee you’ll look at each of the kids and think to yourself that kid was me when I was younger. The way these kids speak to each other is so believable, the dialogue interaction is exactly how you’d expect kids to talk to each other when their parents aren’t around, a lot of cursing and dark humour, especially from Richie (Finn Wolfhard). I’d love to go into each of the performances but it would take up all the review but in short each of the child actors are as good as each other, quite rare nowadays.
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise has big shoes to fill after Tim Curry but manages to pull it off by being terrifying and a little comical (not as much as Tim Curry however). If you haven’t seen anything about It then don’t assume that Pennywise stays a clown as people who have read the book know there’s more to him than meets the eye.
Fear is the dominant theme of It and the film not only manages to highlight the kid’s personal fears, but also the fears of the real world. There are directions this film takes that are very surprising and completely unexpected. Many horror films with child character tends to be very careful with their treatment, It however isn’t afraid to hurt these characters, there’s a surprising amount of psychological scares and gore in this which makes the mini-series tame in comparison.
For very eagle-eyed observers, you may pick up one or two scenes that subtly address the fear of maturity. This new It is a film semiotics dream, with visual imagery connected with puberty and developing adult thoughts, there is one scene where the character Beverly (Sophia Lillis) is buying pads and in the scene, she is being very cautious and hiding herself from others, this continues into another scene but would also tread on spoiler territory, however knowing this, you won’t miss it.
The Bullies led by Henry (Nicholas Hamilton) in It are increasingly as dangerous as Pennywise, while they pose a great threat, their bullying methods go from messing around to psychotic levels. To me, their intimidation towards the kids was a bit too extreme, there’s no question that they can retain that level of intimidation whilst also committing standard bullying, then as the narrative progresses, we get to the extreme methods.
The sewers play a big part in the film and the sets are fantastic under the correct lighting. Water shimmers on the sides of the sewers to create a bigger atmosphere that make you feel more claustrophobic watching the scenes making the scares that take place there even more frightening.
I look at directors like Stanley Kubrick and Rob Reiner who took the source material of a Stephen King novel and made the scares unique and hold up to this day, Andy Muschietti has taken a leaf from modern horror film scare techniques which do include jump scares from time to time, their frightening sure, but the scare aren’t definitive as stand outs in a sea of modern horror.
The Pennywise character is a haunting presence in the film, but determining what kind of presence is where the film falls over itself. It’s as if It can decide if Pennywise is a monster or a demonic entity, this leads the audience asking what kind of threat are the kids dealing with. Those who have read the book will understand this better but because of the film marketing emphasis on the Pennywise form, we forget about the broader picture to the character. Is this film a monster horror or a supernatural horror? We never truly get the answer.
I’m also certain if Stranger Things was never a big success and that the 80’s hadn’t been as popular as it is today, then It would have never been made in the first place, despite the coincidence of a 27-year gap between the film and mini-series. (27 is an important number to It).
It’s not my job to recommend seeing a film, I am merely a man with a keyboard telling you his thoughts, but being the most hyped horror film of the year, It definitely meets expectations and is a must see, even if it’s the only horror film you watch this year. What people are going to like is the relatability with the kids and the scary presence of Pennywise. It may not be as unique as other Stephen King adaptations, but it is a good contender for one of the best.