Stephen King’s 1000-page book “It” immediately recalls certain images: a murderous clown, red balloons and a group of kids fighting to save themselves from an uncertain fate. The titular “It” character is Pennywise the Dancing Clown (It), played by a terrifyingly good Bill Skärsgard, a being of unknown age that awakens every 27 years to feed on the fears of children and ultimately the children themselves.
The summer of 1989 is on this 27 year cycle, and the flyers of missing children are prominent in the small town of Derry, Maine. One of the missing is Georgie, who mysteriously vanishes while playing with his paper boat in the rain. Only the viewers and the neighbor’s cat are aware of Georgie’s grisly end. The preceding story details Georgie’s older brother Bill’s quest to end the terror of It with the help of fellow members of the self-proclaimed “Loser’s Club.”
The entire movie rests completely upon the six actors depicting the middle-school heroes of the story and, boy, do they deliver. These young actors’ talent made the movie incredibly tangible while offering the quirks and dirty jokes that abound in middle-school boys. Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things” stardom makes an appearance as the bespectacled, comedic Richie, while Sophia Lillis makes her debut playing the totally kickass Beverly Marsh, the only female member of the Loser’s Club.
Each member of the Loser’s Club offers his or her own unique disposition to the plot, and the viewers slowly learn each of their most intimate fears as they each have their first interactions with It. The blatant use of CGI when It is terrorizing the children makes for truly fear-inducing cinema. However, the musical cues paired with the CGI become old as the movie progresses.
The jump-scares have less of an impact as they grow into predictable effects but remain very well done. The effects seem more overdone when coupled with the chilling depiction of It. An extended forehead and an exaggerated smile are honestly enough embellishment to an otherwise fantastic depiction of the killer clown.
The small-town aesthetic of Derry exacerbates the manifestations of the boys’ fears brought to life by It. The film artfully displays the red-brick buildings and eerie solitude that can be found in virtually any small town across the country. The disappearance of multiple children in Derry seems like a minor inconvenience for the town, as adults continue on their way, not considering the missing children and the very visible bullying all over town. The seemingly pleasant appearance of Derry gives the impression that it would be a nice place to live but conceals the town’s gruesome history.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable movie for one who has not read the book. Johanna Alpert, senior biology major, described how the movie deviates from its basis.
“It focused more on the Loser’s Club when they were children, but the book is actually more on when they were adults. I think by doing that they were able to focus more on the bullying that occurs, but it still feels like it was still put on the backburner,” Alpert said.
Alpert stated that the movie was at times accurate to the book, specifically in characterization. However, changes were made to the overall plot of the story that didn’t match directly with the text, which included a completely awful damsel-in-distress addition that ruined the entire ending of the movie. Also, the famous phrase “You’ll float too” is completely redesigned in the movie, leaving one of the main components of the story in the dust. Alpert stated that the movie focuses almost completely on the horror aspect of King’s book and circumvented the underlying themes of bullying and sexual abuse.
The story of Pennywise and his evil ways has ingrained itself into our cultural fear of clowns. The new adaptation of this classic story validates itself in some ways but lacks originality in others. The actors’ pure talent cannot absolve the movie from its egregious errors in plot and overused CGI. For those looking for a fun, scary movie, this is a winner, but beware that you’ll be staring at sewer drains for the rest of your life.
Cover photo courtesy of “It The Movie.”