You’ll float too!
“That’s a nice boat, Georgie. Do you want it back?”.
Growing up, and still today, nearly everyone I know shares a common fear –
I never really understood it. Clowns were never all that frightening to me. I mean, mildly disturbing, but scary? No way.
Well, opinions change, man…….
I try not to jump to conclusions, but upon seeing the trailers and the hype for IT building up over the last few months, I had a feeling in my gut that this movie was gonna be baaaaad. It looked campy, overblown, and typical.
Sorry, Pennywise. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Not only is IT serviceable as an above-average horror movie, it also excels as a coming-of-age drama and an adventure flick. It doesn’t do anything particularly excellently, but it is masterfully made and engrossing in multiple facets.
I hadn’t read Stephen King’s novel, so for those of you had never floated along like I had, here’s a quick filler – A sleepy town in Maine has a violent and disturbing history, and when local boy Bill’s brother Georgie disappears, more sinister events start to unfold in the town, especially involving a group of tightly-knit friends.
Of course, it’s no spoiler to tell you that the catalyst of chaos is legendary clown Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgård), who lures local children into terrifying situations and kidnaps them, one by one. He compels people to unspeakable acts of violence, and preys on one’s deepest fears.
Not really a horror movie.
It is hard to classify. I’d shortlist it as horror, but honestly, there’s a lot packed into its 135 minute runtime that isn’t horror at all. There’s probably enough footage in there to make it a teen coming-of-age screwball dramedy, while cutting out the scary stuff. The closest thing I can compare it to is 2011’s Super 8, a film that also followed a child-driven cast and had the same vibe as It. It is pretty much a teen adventure drama with some extremely terrifying parts sprinkled in. It’s a weird mix to think about, but it works.
The movie has some pretty jarring tonal shifts. It will cut from a mortifying horror scene to a comedy/romantic bit in the blink of an eye. These shifts are noticeable, but they don’t hinder the film because they are bolstered by a few things – the pacing, the visuals, and the cast.
The film is a slow burn with a generous runtime, but none of the time ever feels wasted. Much of the film is dedicated to the relationships between the characters and their individual fears. The necessary scare montage scenes are hit in the beginning, and they start to get a little tedious going into the second act. They are helped, though, by the fact that they’re genuinely terrifying and a visual treat to soak in. The banter, conflicts, and resolutions between the kids are heartfelt and rewarding.
The visuals, as I touched on, are world-class. The cinematography is gorgeous, bleak, and intimate, with the horror scenes splattered with an impressively intricate color palette and lighting scheme. The production design is terrific, and an Oscar nomination for the category would be earned. They team behind IT brought 1980’s Derry to life with vibrant heart. The effects are creative, jarring, dream-like, and horrifying – everything you could ask for in a horror film.
The cast, comprised mainly of children/teens, more than pull their own weight. Jaeden Lieberher is moving and sympathetic as Bill, and Sophia Lillis steals every scene she’s in as Beverly. The rest of the gang is rounded out by some hilarious, if archetypal, characters who are brought to life by their child counterparts. The necessary character-building scenes are hilarious and bolstered by snippy dialogue delivered by kids with brilliant comedic timing. The cast has great chemistry, and the fact that nothing feels forced helps the film as it moves forward.
The film, through these elements, escapes formula and genre traps and soars as one of the best horror movies of the year, and undoubtedly the one with the widest range. It’s message about growing up, letting go, fear, and friendship resonates clearly. It’s far from life-changing, but IT will leave viewers satisfied.
The film is one of the better journeys you’ll take at the movies this year.