It (2017) Floats to the Top


During one of the most disappointing summers for Hollywood, one horror remake will float to the top of the box office with a $117M opening weekend. It is the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel and is arguably King’s most popular work. The story takes place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine where 7 kids are terrorized by It, a shape-shifting being that feeds off of the fears of children. The most well known form of It in the movie and in pop culture is Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. The film’s first teaser trailer quickly garnered the most views on YouTube in the first 24 hours of release and ever since, critics and fans alike have been eager to see if this film would live up to the chilling feeling they experienced upon seeing Pennywise in a sewer drain for the very first time.

It has been adapted once before by ABC as a 2-part miniseries in 1990, but the limitations of network television were very clear. There were many omissions from the miniseries that ended up hindering the true terror of the story. This time, this movie fully unleashes the dread of It. Although It is rated R and does show blood and gore, it doesn’t glamorize and overuse these effects to scare the audience. It also doesn’t heavily rely on jump scares either. The real fear of the movie is almost entirely in the performance of Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise. Everything odd about his appearance as a Swedish clown including his rabbit teeth, balding hair, immense height, drooling mouth, and eyes that are never quite focused adds to the sense of him being an entity of evil and not just a scary clown. There is an irritating quality to Pennywise that’s also very childlike, leading to a complexity you wouldn’t expect to see in a modern day horror movie. This childishness seems to be a result of Pennywise being closely linked to the children and their imaginations. In the middle of attacking Eddie, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, It abruptly stops and gets distracted due to Finn Wolfhard’s character Richie claiming that It’s apparitions aren’t real. He also repeatedly uses the dead sibling of Jaeden Lieberher’s character Bill to taunt all of the children with the phrase, “You’ll float too.”The portrayal of children in this film is also very accurate and well realized. The seven main children in the story make up the Losers Club. There’s a loudmouthed jokester, hypochondriac, inquisitive new kid, victim of bullying, home schooled outsider, brave leader, and overly reluctant follower played by the amazing cast of Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, respectively. Chances are, if you didn’t know one of these children when you were growing up, you were one of them. All of these child actors gave phenomenal performances and they hold up the film very well, giving the movie a Stranger Things vibe throughout. Although two or three of them don’t get enough character development, I speculate that some of their bigger character moments will come in It: Chapter 2 , coming out in September 2019. The standout members of the Losers Club are definitely Beverly, Richie, and Eddie. Beverly represents the curious nature of youth and how it can quickly be corrupted. She also is the bravest of the bunch and a little quirky. Richie has some of the best lines in the film. He authenticates the adolescent setting by providing plenty of comedy and profanity throughout the entire film. Lastly, Eddie’s extreme germaphobia and nerdiness make his interactions with the other losers entertaining, and their friendship much more sought after.

This film balances the aspects of a summer blockbuster perfectly. The filmmakers knew when to tone things down to allow for quieter character moments but they also knew when to heighten the true terror of anyone’s worst fear coming to life. I thought I had seen most of the movie’s scares in the numerous trailers released before the movie’s premiere, but It still had plenty of tricks up its sleeve. There are a few real life horrors in It that you wouldn’t expect in addition to the typical disturbing imagery of today’s horror movies. It also knew how to utilize the relatively low (for the start of a franchise) $35M budget to create sometimes unrealistic effects. Sometimes they work to the filmmakers’ advantage and even add to the sense of It being an unreal being. But at other times, they take you out of the movie at otherwise serious moments. Overall, they don’t ruin the viewing experience though.

In most horror movies, teenagers are always the victims and children are almost never hurt, but in this one, the only people in danger are kids. It’s effective at reminding viewers that in most situations, children are actually the most vulnerable, not the most untouchable. Most importantly, this movie has a lot of heart. There are moments in the film that reminded me of my childhood and the various friendships that came with it. It also blurs the lines between comedy and horror superbly, leading to an excellent variety of sequences. So no, It is not just a movie about a clown killing kids, but rather a tale about conquering fears, growing up, and learning to accept the facts of life.