In the story of IT, an eternal demon assuming the form of Pennywise The Dancing Clown comes back to Derry, Maine to terrorize and eat children every 27 years. Based on his novel, Stephen King’s horrifying IT mini-series first premiered on television in 1990 and now exactly 27 years later, IT has returned to prey on our fears. Released nationwide this week, the new IT film broke the Thursday box office record for an R-rated movie that was previously held by Deadpool with $13.5 million in one night. “Hello Georgie!”
A horror movie centering around the terror of children already has a demented premise and IT starts off with what might be one of the most demented sequences in a big Hollywood movie. True genre fans will wish that there were more Pennywise-induced horror and less heart. However, as an overall cinematic experience for a general audience, IT delivers a balance of good story telling, character development, and genuine creepy moments with a stellar young cast.
Actor Finn Wolfhard, one of the main kids from Stranger Things has the unique experience of being typecast in a very, very specific genre. Specifically, the nostalgic 1980’s horror throwback genre featuring a group of bicycle-riding, loser kids who must figure out what monster is kidnapping children from their town. Of course, IT was the original that Stranger Things was in part evoking, and paying homage to a point that hopefully younger viewer will get clued in on. There are plenty of 80’s references throughout including the films playing at the local movie theater each time the kids ride by it. Most interestingly A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5; hey maybe the gang should have gone to see it to get some supernatural entity battling tips?
As Richie Tozier, Finn and the rest of the child actors do an excellent job of making us feel their character’s terror while also delivering some great comedic moments. If anything, the decision to embrace an R-rating, rather than water down the subject matter for a possible wider audience, allows the dialogue to reflect how boys of that age actually talk to each other when adults aren’t around. This serves to add to the authenticity and realness of their lives, contrasting with the always bizarre world of Stephen King we have entered; something that most horror films ignore.
Unlike the miniseries, this feature version of IT only focuses on the children battling the shape-shifting creature and a second movie, IT: Chapter 2 will deal with their adult selves upon his return. The film opens with little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) meeting Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgård) after his brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) crafts him a little paper boat which floats into the sewer. From there Bill and his friends in “The Losers’ Club” spend their summer vacation trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to Georgie and why so many kids keep going missing around town. They each have ever increasingly disturbing encounters with what they soon dub “IT.” Each encounter is a manifestation of what they fear most: While Bill is haunted by his brother, feared to be dead, Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) is stalked by a creepy painting of a woman in his father’s office. Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a hypochondriac hounded by a face melting leper and poor Richie… hates clowns. Their group acquires new outcasts along the way. The “new kid” chubby Ben (Jeremy Ray Talyor) has an adorable crush on Beverly (Sophia Lillis) who has been wrongly labeled the town floozy, getting bullied by the other girls at school. Meanwhile “the home-schooled kid” Mike (Chosen Jacobs) is seeing visions of burn victims.
This town is terrifying even without a supernatural creepy clown luring children into the sewer to feed on their fears. There could be an entire non-horror film dedicated to the psychotic bully, Henry Bowers, who gives Pennywise a run for his money in the depravity department, and Beverly’s sexual predator father.
Fans of classic horror, Stephen King, and good old cinema should be sure to see this latest edition to the King mythos on the big screen. It will leave you a bit jumpy. After watching two hours of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, someone put a red balloon in the hallway of the movie theater exit as we walked out of the screening. Several people actually screamed and ran away from it as if IT was going to jump out at them!
IT will stay with you for a bit and give you some questions to mull over. Such as: What would Pennywise do to feed on the fears of adults? “Hello Georgie. I’ve got your tax returns, Georgie. …Looks like you are overdue for a colonoscopy, Georgie.”
Have you seen the new IT movie? Did you like it, Georgie, did you?