Between the new season of American Horror Story and last year’s hot trend of stalking strangers while wearing white makeup and squeaky shoes, clowns are once again in the forefront of the public’s mind as a chief source of fear. But for those of us who can’t help but scare ourselves, It is the perfect opportunity to scratch your horror itch and take in an excellent film.
If you didn’t know, It is not just a film, but an adaption (a second attempt, but let’s not discuss that one) of Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name. The novel follows a wide group of characters, both as children and adults, as they do battle with a primal manifestation of fear only known as “It.”
As a creative choice, the film only focuses on the childhood of the main characters and does make a lot of changes (such as a time shift up to the 1980s), but the spirit of the film rings true. The seven young heroes have to face the horrors of It, whether he takes the shape of Pennywise the Dancing Clown or some other monstrosity, as well as the dark sides of their own childhood. If I’m honest, it is the human conflicts that are much more disturbing in my mind.
What I enjoyed about this movie the most, I think, is its willingness to take creative risks in order to maintain the quality and the depth of King’s original story. While there is some reliance on jump scares, there is a lot more to it. The way It builds fear is through anticipation. Even if you aren’t one who is easily scared, there are several moments that will get you to sweat a bit. The cast also adds so much reality to this film. They are some of the best young actors I’ve seen and there is a lot of humor that cuts through some of the heavier moments. On top of that, Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise is instantly recognizable but also utterly his own. This isn’t just a good horror film. It is a good film that happens to be in the horror genre.
I won’t call It perfect, though. With seven protagonists, secondary characters, and the embodiment of fear itself, some parts do feel a little rushed and character development gets a little ham-fisted. Not a lot, but a little. Also, as far as some more modern horror goes, this isn’t the 90 mile-per-hour heart attack you may be looking for. Like I said, the movie does a much better job conjuring dread than it does getting an audience to scream.
4.5/5 Stars. A must-see movie for everyone who can stomach a scare, because we all float down here.