The New IT Movie is Everything You Could Want From Stephen King.
Chances are that you might be one of the people that feel a twinge of nostalgia for the Tim Curry mini series, but don’t let that stop you from seeing the new IT movie. It’s dark, twisted, and heart warming. Yeah, that might seem a little confusing. But it makes perfect sense. IT brings all the terror Stephen King is known for, but it also has universal themes of coming of age and friendship at its core. In other words, it makes you care about the characters before raising the stakes for them.
The film follows a group of kids, known for being losers, as they slowly learn the terrifying truth behind their home town. There is a monster that emerges every 27 years to throw the town into terror as it abducts children. Despite being shown their darkest fears, these “losers” decide to push forward to save themselves and their town.
I can’t think of a better director than Andy Muschietti to bring one of King’s most beloved novels to the big screen. Best known for Mama (a movie I loved), Muschietti brings the same level of horrifying visuals to his latest film. There’s this constant sense of darkness that light just can’t manage to fully break through. In this sense, it’s almost as though he’s painting with shadows, instead of lighting. Then there’s his vision of Pennywise is very much like a cat. It might seem cute at first, but deep inside is a predator that lives to play with its prey. Of course, Muschietti’s vision would be nothing without the talent Bill Skarsgård brings to the role.
The original novel is a little over 1000 pages, which means any adaptation would certainly have its work cut out for it. The new movie though manages to pull it off wonderfully though. The film really focuses on developing the characters and their friendship. Not an easy task when you have 7 kids at the center of the story. Luckily, Muschietti knows something that few directors really seem to grasp and that is to show not tell. This focus really raises the stakes in the film. I mean, how many times have you seen a scary movie and hated the main characters? Not caring whether the characters live or die is the downfall of most horror films. This though makes you root for the kids, hope that no hard comes to them, and hate when it does. This film gives itself a heart, which makes the audience terrified that a knife could go through it at any moment.
While the kids might be the stars of this film, heroes are defined by their villain. That’s where Bill Skarsgård comes in and the only word to describe him is sinister. His version of Pennywise is all over the place, switching from smiling, bantering clown, to a terrifying force of nature. There’s just something delightfully uncomfortable about his performance, even when he’s just standing there watching, it will send shivers down your spine. There might be a lot of love for the Tim Curry version, but Skarsgård is far superior and never misses a step.
As scary as it is, it’s also incredibly heart warming. All the heroes have their issues that define them and help them contribute to the ensemble. Jaeden Lieberher is a stutterer looking for redemption. Sophia Lillis is looking for a safe place to belong. Finn Wolfhard (who you will recognize from Stranger Things) is the mouthy kid looking for acceptance. I could go on and on about this, but you get the idea. In essence, they are a group that is more than the sum of their parts. Their friends not just because they have no one else, but because each of them gets what they so desperately need from the others. The universal theme is that we love our friends, not because they give us an identity, but they help us find it.
IT might not be a perfect film. There are a few pacing issues with it, and some of the characters aren’t as memorable as others. However, it is an incredibly scary movie. Probably one of the best I’ve seen in years. It manages to capture the essence of terror, building the stakes, creating suspense, and creating an empathetic bond with the characters. The film doesn’t have to rely on gore and buckets of blood (well, except for the one scene). There are plenty of dark and twisted images, but it creates the presence of violence without quite following through. In other words, this is exactly what I want from a horror movie. If you like scary movies, you will not want to miss out on this one.