I was shocked by It. Not by its intense horror but by its ability to successfully combine a coming of age drama with good traditional horror. The film’s core cast of kids are wonderful, both in terms of writing and acting. Each character has a distinct set of traits that define their personality and the film does a great job of demonstrating these visually at the beginning. With such a diverse group of characters it is easy to see yourself in one of them, which in return makes you care for them all – you really celebrate the victories and mourn the losses of ‘The Losers’. Bill Skarsgård is haunting as Pennywise the clown, managing to make the character terrifying but also fascinating. You both want to and don’t want to see him appear.
Visually, the film has a lot to offer. During the coming of age moments, the cinematography is simple but pleasing to the eye. It’s when the films horror moments come into play where director Andy Muschietti and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung begin to get really adventurous with their presentation. This in return manages to create stark contrast between the horror and the day-to-day.
The film breaks no new ground. Instead, It feels very old school in how it chooses to handle it’s scares as well as the relationships between its characters. It harkens back to the great era in the 80s for films in both these genres like Stand By Me and Nightmare on Elm Street. This benefits It greatly as it is more creative with its horror as opposed to trying to be as shocking as possible (think more Poltergeist than Saw). There is a good balance between jump scares and building discomfort. What was most pleasing however, is that the films horrors aren’t all based in fantasy. The kids struggle with real life horrors like bullying, loss and even abuse. Pennywise is used as a physical tool for the characters journey to overcome these real life horrors, paying into the films coming of age themes and bringing together the film’s two genres.
It manages to be an engaging, dark coming-of-age tale as well a very competent, traditional horror. Muschietti has succeeded in crafting something very special in his film – absorbing, heartfelt and terrifying, It ranks among the best film adaptations of Stephen King.
Image: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema