Director: Andrés Muschietti
Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Bill Skarsgård
Release Date: September 8th, 2017
When you’re a kid, you spend a lot of time surrounded by forces you can’t control. From the claustrophobia that comes from having an overbearing mother to the omnipresent fear that a local bully will follow you home, there’s an awareness that other powers are much bigger than you.
You might feel safe at times but those times can be fleeting with danger just around the corner or in the local sewer drain.
In the new film It, a great danger first presents itself in the sewer drain to an unlucky child. The danger has the face and energy of a clown but there’s a darker evil there. Adapted from the Stephen King novel, the new horror film succeeds in telling a personal story about fear, adulthood and danger.
The story focuses on a group of youngsters (nicknamed the Loser’s Club) in a small community. Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is the group’s unofficial leader. The group includes the sarcastic Richie Dozier (Finn Wolfhard), the hypervigilant Eddie Kaspbrek (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the cautionary Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff). Their group of so-called losers grow with the introduction of town newcomer Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the homeschooled Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) and Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), a bullied but brave teenager who quickly impresses the boys.
Even as the clown begins appearing to them, the story never stops being about these characters.
Much of the film, in fact, focuses on these characters away from the clown. Like Stand by Me, another great film adapted from a King story, this film is interested in its’ unique journey into adulthood. Surprisingly, of all of the King adaptations, that 1986 film — which featured young characters on a journey to find a dead body — feels the most similar to this one despite the fact that this movie belongs in the horror genre.
Unlike the book (which shifts between the story of these children and their adult selves), the movie focuses on the kids — giving the story time to build up these respective characters. The interplay between the characters is a particular highlight as the dialogue showcases these friendships blossoming. The children face off against great evil but they remain grounded by their ages, speaking and acting like young adults do.
The cast truly brings them to life with Jack Dylan Grazer and Jaeden Denbrough really standing out as characters trying to overcome their emotional pain.
Director Andy Muschietti wisely chooses to tell much of the story from a child’s perspective, making the horrors even greater. The camera’s low-angle shots keeps reminding us that the participants in this story are young and so much seems to tower over them. It (played by a wonderfully menacing Bill Skarsgård) is just the largest threat they face.
King’s novel was adapted by screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunga and Gary Dauberman and the script contains a panoply of emotions. There are laughs and frights here alongside raw emotional moments that really show the personal turmoil that this creature (and the many other monsters that reside there) has brought to the town. It’s rare for horror films to carry such emotional resonance but this one does that by keeping the focus on those who have suffered at the hands of the clown. The pain of loss rings true throughout.
It may be about a clown but it’s about much more. The clown is only part of the scares here as objects come to life, nightmares become reality and fears are realized. The filmmakers use a variety of wonderful tactics to keep audiences surprised. The greatest surprise is that this horror film works deeply as both a scary tale and a coming of age journey for characters on the cusp of adulthood.
Review by: John Hanlon