I caught the last showing of this film last night, thinking the theater would be relatively empty. To my awe and surprise, the parking lot was full when I got there. This film has made a record-breaking 117 million dollars in a matter of days. Why am I telling you this? Because the movie deserves it.
It is an adaptation of the famous Stephen King story about a group of misfit kids who have to band together after their local town of Derry, Maine is terrorized by a nightmarish clown along with various other dangers, some supernatural, some not. I’ll go ahead and get it out of the way. I loved this movie. There’s no use in beating around the bush. It is a magnificent horror movie, it’s a great coming of age story, it’s a terrific adventure tale, it’s just terrific. I honestly don’t know where to start. Andres Muschietti brought an unbelievable eye to this film as the director. He managed to both get fantastic performances out of all the kids and still maintain a fully realized creepy atmosphere to the entire film. The pacing might just be this movie’s greatest strength. Do you have any idea how hard it is to create a horror movie that lasts for two hours and fifteen minutes while still holding interest and heightening tension with each passing sequence? It’s very hard. Most horror movies struggle with pacing a ninety-minute runtime, but this one effortlessly tackled an extended storyline while warranting every second of the narrative. It gave just enough time to developing the characters and the spooks and scares without leaving either shortchanged. And that is an achievement all of its own.
The Losers Club was a revelation. There isn’t any other way to describe them. I’d say, save for the Harry Potter franchise, there hasn’t been a group of kids on screen this century that has been so entertaining and connectable this century. They all were good. All of them. I did think the screenwriter did give a little less to the characters of Mike and Stan, every one of them was still a character. This is a rarity in movies, as most child characters are just that. They’re the kid. They’re either tragic and lamentable, or precocious and annoying. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently incorrect with either of those options, but it’s nice to see kids be taken seriously again. The adults are also very well realized. I was unfamiliar with the source material, so I was very surprised to see just how deplorable all of the adults in this movie were. This element really added to the storytelling as we were able to have a grounded contrast between the horrors of the real world and the horrors of your imagination. (Please don’t stop reading after that immensely pretentious sentence.)
Let’s talk about Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Bill Skarsgard absolutely nailed it. Pennywise had this perfect balance between being frightening and almost unsettlingly goofy. There’s no real way to describe his atmosphere unless you’ve seen the film. So go see the film, and then come back. Still here? Great. How creepy was that guy, huh? I was continually impressed by how they managed to keep coming up with new ways for him to be creepy. He’s not just a one trick pony like most horror icons. I guess you could say, He’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve. HA! (Please don’t stop reading after that immensely unfunny sentence.)
There’s something that’s really been bothering me with some of my peers who have seen this film. I’ve heard one or two people referring to this movie as being “cheezy.” You know what? This doesn’t just bother me, it makes me genuinely angry. It makes me angry because it’s so far off-base it’s insane. There’s a difference between a cliche and a convention. Having sex in a frighteningly dilapidated and tetanus-ridden shack in the woods is a cliche. The shack itself is a convention. We accept its existence because it’s a horror movie and that’s just what we expect. So long as they do something new and interesting with the convention itself is fine. After all, in action movies, we don’t complain if the hero doesn’t get shot (unless you’re just overly cynical.). It feels very classic horror as if it could belong in the pedigree of films like A Nightmare on Elm Street or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It uses tried and true horror conventions but manipulates them in a way that feels fresh and exciting. It might not be the most bone-chilling film ever created, but it gets the job done with panache. And, it features plenty of daytime spooky, which is always a plus in my book.
Long story short, It is a very, very good movie. It has everything you could want; terrific direction, wonderful performances, a well-written script, an addicting score, breathtaking cinematography, spotless editing, the list can go on… I think my only issues are the fact that we didn’t get enough from the Jewish kid and Mike’s storyline felt a little uninspired in comparison to the other ones. But otherwise, I had an absolute blast with this movie. Do yourself a favor and go see it as soon as possible.
All images are from It, a movie by Warner Brothers