As you probably know by now, people all over the nation are raving about It, the newest film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name. It’s grossed $218MM domestic since its release on September 8th. It’s killing it overseas as well, with an overseas box office total of $153MM, hitting hard in Australia, the UK, Russia, Brazil and South Korea. The movie stars Bill Skarsgard in its namesake role as he terrorizes our protagonists, The Losers Club, a group of 7 outcast children in the creepy small town suburban neighborhood of Derry, Maine. There’s a good reason why this movie is performing — the film is a fun watch. Absolutely it is, and the marketing was on point. If you liked the trailers, the movie delivers the same creepy vibe that was advertised. But let’s not spoil the review with the conclusion, there’s a lot to be said about this film.
There are spoilers contained within the review, but hopefully nothing too specific or revealing.
First, let’s start with the good. The film mixes the creepiness, suspense and jump scares with the timeless narrative conceit of friends coming together over a coming of age journey, shared by many classics such as Stand by Me and The Goonies. It delivers a horror movie that, even if the clown weren’t present, may very well have worked on its own. The cast of young characters led by Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) did an incredible job, bordering on phenomenal. Often I find movies with child actors hard to bear, but just like the recent hit Stranger Things, the cast has incredible chemistry and disappears into the role. I was impressed with every child, but especially with the portrayal of Richie (Finn Wolfhard), who hails from Stranger Things and is able to showcase impressive range for a young actor by playing a character who is starkly different from the sheepish protagonist of Stranger Things.
In addition to the children, Bill Skarsgard plays Pennywise the Dancing Clown perfectly. His expressions, demeanor, and line delivery are all spot on. Accolades are deserved, as well, by the supporting team that existed to create the character. The costuming, makeup, cinematography and light-work threw up a big assist in making sure It got a performance for its clown that, in my opinion, topped Tim Curry’s 1990 take on the role, and is going to be talked about for years to come. Surely, Bill Skarsgard is going to have no trouble getting high profile work following the performance of It.
The movie delivers exceptionally well on the emotional impact of each of its character arcs. Beginning with Georgie’s death, you can connect with Bill’s guilt and grief throughout the film as a motivational factor. Bev’s early-age understanding of sexual magnetism and the disturbing slow reveal as to why hits viewers in their gut with a level of disgust and fear the clown barely comes close to topping. Even the high school bully, Henry Bowers, steals scenes with his sadism and connects viewers both to the Losers Club’s hatred of him, and gives insight into his internal weakness and fear. The puppy love romance is believable and delivers a feeling of wholesomeness and nostalgia.
Finally, and this is probably the greatest thing about the movie, is it combines a serious down-to-Earth story about growing up in Derry, Maine with a 5-star comedy and a great horror movie. This particular recipe is fresh, and it works well. At the risk of stating a cliche, it takes you on a rollercoaster of emotion — laughing one moment and cringing the next.
Let’s go onto what was wrong with the film. We’ll continue on page 2!