By: Andrea Renney
There’s been a lot of buzz about It, the recent adaptation of Stephen King’s well-known horror novel of the same name that may well have sparked coulrophobia (the fear of clowns) in the hearts of people everywhere back in 1986. Upon its release, the first trailer for the film set a new record for the most Facebook views in a single day and topped YouTube’s trending videos list for a time. The film had become so anticipated that real-life clowns were complaining the movie was threatening their job security by triggering a latent phobia of clowns in people.
All of this was before the film was even officially released in theatres.
It is set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine; a town which has a problem with children going missing, but no one seems to care enough to do more than put up missing child posters. When a group of kids dubbed “The Losers Club” begins seeing apparitions that epitomize their individual worst fears, accompanied by a nightmare-inducing clown known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, they decide to get to the bottom of the town’s oldest mystery.
Despite its dark and violent subject matter, It at times feels more like an homage to ‘80s films like The Goonies or Stand By Me, as producer Dan Lin puts it, that centred around a group of kids on a quest. Its young stars are believable in their portrayal of a group of preteens, making crude jokes and dropping curse words like they’re going out of style. Finn Wolfhard, known for playing Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things, shines as Richie, the foul-mouthed, wise-cracking member of the group. Sophia Lillis will surely become sought after in Hollywood after her portrayal of Beverly, a witty Molly Ringwald look-alike who has one of the darker backstories.
The first half of the film focuses less on plot development and more on establishing the different forms that It takes for each of the children. This does start to feel a bit gratuitous in its number of scares, but this is a horror movie, after all. However, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill horror with endless tiptoeing through dark hallways until the score culminates with — gasp — a door slamming. No, the reveals of It’s various terrifying forms come hard and fast with no unnecessary build up.
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise manages to switch gears from frighteningly evil to whimsical and silly with no lag time. He’s not limited to the dark, either: some of the most fear-inducing scenes are in broad daylight, so you can forget about feeling safe during the daytime scenes.
It’s always refreshing to see a book adaptation or remake that does the original justice, and also appeals to audiences that aren’t familiar with the story. Though the film has its scary parts, It stands out from a lot of other films of the horror genre in that it featured likable, funny characters and a story that’s as much about friendship as it is about scaring the audience. I can only hope the sequel is as well-cast, visually chilling, and fun as the first instalment is.