By Kayla Valera | Staff Writer
Stephen King’s latest film adaptation to his novel “It” had been met early on with comparisons to earlier works such as the 1990s TV miniseries, which has since been a cemented as a cult classic thanks to actor Tim Curry’s menacing villain, Pennywise the Clown. But while the reboot shares the same vein as the original, the 2-hour long film, directed by Andrés Muschietti, deviates the most from the miniseries by setting the story to the ’80s instead of ’50s.
As someone who has neither watched the first “It” movie nor has read the thousand-page novel, I was still familiar with Pennywise through pop culture references. I understood the premise of “It” being about a demonic killer clown terrorizing a group of small town kids by enacting their greatest fears. Some friends had even openly shared how “It” was the movie that made them fully realize their phobia of clowns growing up.
Although I never found clowns to be particularly scary, there’s no denying that unnerving feeling that I felt when a scene revealed the sinister creature, played by Bill Skarsgård, lurking in the shadows to prey on the children of Derry. This omniscient being proves to be the lowest kind of monster that taps into and feeds off of the fear of innocent children, who are usually off-limits in the horror genre. And given the movie’s R-rating, there was no holding back the true evil that Pennywise is capable of inflicting.
Each encounter with Pennywise is unlike the last and allows for the film to expand on different stylized jump scares in-store for the audience. With the aid of well-placed CGI and Skarsgård’s dynamic acting, the shape-shifting clown seems to have walked out of a child’s worst nightmare.
However, the fear couldn’t have settled in if not for the concern that the audience has for the seven children that face the brunt of Pennywise’s reign of terror, the Losers Club. At the get-go, this group of pre-teens’ storylines are weaved into their introduction to Pennywise, who plays out each of their unique fears. The main protagonist Bill Denbrough, played by Jaeden Lieberher, knows firsthand of Pennywise’s monstrous ways when his little brother goes missing at the hands of the clown.
From that point forward we see the kids embark on a summer long adventure to track down the town of Derry’s long-standing nightmare. Like most coming of age films, “It” showcases the characters’ growth as they overcome more daunting villains than Pennywise, such as the adults in their lives. Though this isn’t to say that the story skimps out on their immaturity. In fact, what I think sets apart “It” from other movies that I’ve seen, teen and horror films alike, is the brashness of these kids throughout their journey. Staying true to the narrative of any eight-grader facing a clown from hell, the script is replete with f-bombs and sex jokes that provides a much needed break from the on-screen lunges and monster chasing scenes.
Most notable of these fast-mouthed kids that’s worth watching out for is Richie Tozier, who’s played by Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things.” The dialogue that he, along with the other kids in the group, contribute to the movie makes their stories and their characters all the more real. While each bear their own traumatizing fear throughout the movie, it makes it easy for audience to understand where these kids are coming from and find at least one of them to be highly relatable.
Going to the theaters, I wanted to get a taste of the infamous and iconic clown who has haunted generations of children. What I got in addition to this once the credits rolled was a handful of wise-mouthed one liners, a list of fresh-faced teen actors that I would soon Google, and a newfound appreciation for King’s dark and twisted universe.