A fear of clowns seems to have worked its way into our collective unconscious.
Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King’s epic horror novel It effectively draws upon that fear, but its true strength lies in its depiction of coming-of-age woes, teamwork and friendship, and all-too-human horrors. With a talented and charming teenage cast, haunting imagery, and a surprisingly profound and moving exploration of fear and innocence, It works as both a horror flick and a touching coming-of-age film.
In the iconic opening scene, Bill Denbrough, a shy, serious teenager with a stutter, makes a paper boat for his little brother Georgie. As Georgie sails his boat in the rain water collecting on the street outside, it gets swept into a drain. Even though the audience knows what’s going to happen, the tension is palatable, escalated by the score and haunting establishing shots. Our first encounter with Pennywise the, Dancing Clown, is as creepy as expected. Actor Bill Skasgard is quite effective, bringing a subdued, crisp malice to the role. The events that follow are nearly identical to the book and just as disturbing. From the beginning, Muschietti expertly commands control of aesthetics and tone, creating a sense of intermingled dread and nostalgia.
From the beginning of the film, Pennywise terrorizes each member of the Losers’ club individually, preying on what they fear most. This reveals something about each character, adding depth to the story as a whole. Sophie Lillis shines as Beverly, the only girl in the Losers’ club. Facing puberty, an abusive dad and bullying, Beverly is heartbreakingly familiar with the real-life horrors that lurk around corners and prey on children.
Because of her experiences, her precociousness, and her resolve, Beverly plays a crucial role in the climax of the film.
Additionally, actor Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things is hilarious as the sarcastic and crude Richie, who spends the great majority of his screen time cussing and blurting out ridiculous one-liners. Hypochondriac teen Eddie, played by newcomer Jack Dylan Grazer, also serves to provide comic relief. The camraderie between all of the young actors that make up the Losers’ Club is genuinely touching, bringing to mind last year’s Stranger Things and classic Spielberg films.
I found It to be creepier than anything else — it’s definitely a horror film. There’s an abundance of shocking and grotesque imagery coupled with jumped scares, horror tropes, and an effectively eerie score.
Overall, I found it haunting and atmospheric, rather than flat-out terrifying. I found the coming-of-age scenes to be most moving, such as Beverly trying to buy tampons without drawing any attention to herself and the kids huddling around Bill as he’s grieving the loss of his brother. As the Losers’ club gains the strength to fight Pennywise, they also gain the strength to stand up to their parents and define themselves outside of external expectations. It is best in its most human moments and is an formidable entry in both horror and coming-of-age canons.