Review: IT

Title: IT
Rating: R
Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Lieberher
Runtime: 2hr 15min

What It Is: Based on the classic horror novel by Stephen King, IT begins with a scene of gruesome terror: a young boy named Georgie goes out to play in the rain with a newspaper sailboat made by his older brother Bill. When the boat falls into a sewer drain, Georgie thinks it is lost–until a clown appears, wanting to talk to him, asking if he wants his boat back. Avoiding any spoilers, fast forward to the last day of school, and we’re introduced to the Losers Club, a group of boys around the age of eleven or twelve. Together, with new friends they make who are victimized by the same bullies, and a girl named Beverly who mixes with them and who they are all in their own ways smitten with–some more serious than the rest–they find it unavoidable to confront the evil presence that has cast a shadow over their hometown, and is the reason for the disappearances of children at a disturbingly high rate. And although they’re just kids who want nothing more than to enjoy their summer, when they all begin to see things–a taunting, monstrous clown at the center of these sightings–they soon understand: either they have to face IT, whatever IT is, or accept that more and more kids like Bill’s missing brother Georgie will disappear, maybe even members of their own group.

What We Think: Not only is IT an uncommonly great horror movie, but it is the rare book-to-movie adaptation that captures the magic of its source material. The novel has always been much more than a mere horror novel: it is about childhood, about the summers we have and can never have back, about the importance and power of bonds and friendship–more than anything, about facing one’s fears. And IT, the movie, gets all of this right. It is filled with scares of all different kinds, each as effective as the rest, and it is an absolutely terrifying experience. Not only did I find myself shaken, but the rest of the theater’s collective reaction was enough for me to understand that I wasn’t the only one who was glued to the screen and terrified. One of Stephen King’s principles is that if you like the main characters, and you care about them, then the suspense speaks for itself, as does the horror, because you are rooting for these characters and scared with and for them. The film succeeds in this matter gloriously. The kids are all perfectly cast, all are excellent actors who inhabit their roles seamlessly. Their chemistry is wonderful, heartwarming, and hilarious. And you care about them and what happens to them. Add to this a strong script and strong performances, and kids who actually talk and act like kids, and you have horror that feels so much closer to home, and is all the more effective.

Lastly, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Bill Skarsgård, who brings a manic horror to Pennywise the Clown. His performance is so eerie, and he vanishes inside the role of a monster so well, it is genuinely a spectacle every time he’s on screen. You can see in his eyes a disturbing hunger; you can hear in his voice a playful facade covering the desperation of a fiendish monster that feeds on fear.

Our Rating: A, IT isn’t just one of the greatest horror movies to come out in recent years, it is also one of the best films of the year, period. By sufficiently capturing the magic of its source material while being strong enough as a film, it proves to be a unique experience in that, while it is truly terrifying, there are also many layers beneath its surface–layers of meaning and purpose and poignancy. It is so fun, so funny, so sweet, and so scary. I could have kept watching for an hour more, or even longer, had the runtime extended that long; so magnetic is the cast, who I wish we could see more of. And so brilliantly told is its story, from its horror to its tender heart. I recommend it wholeheartedly and suggest reading the book, too.