*Spoilers, I guess. But this story ain’t new, bruh*
My friend and I were a little late getting to our screening for IT; we walked in right into the middle of the iconic sewer scene. I’m looking at Georgie about to meet his fate as I shuffle to my seat and Pennywise’s cock-eyed, drooling smile fill the screen. I sit down right as that damn clown fakes like he’s about to give him his paper boat back. Even though I know what’s about to go down, my mind is racing like Vin Diesel’s stunt double. How exactly is he gonna murk this kid?
I didn’t even get a chance to open the Butterfinger Cups I snuck in from 7–11(F*** Reese’s) when IT crawled up out that sewer, launched itself out the movie screen, snatched my soul from my body and left it floating in the air. How dare a horror movie in 2017 ACTUALLY scare me?
I’m not pretending to be shocked at this point. I’m so offended.
The remake of the 1990 film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name follows the story of 7 kids who band together to survive the wrath of a demonic entity hellbent on feasting on the fear of the children of Derry, Maine. In the original film, they meet again in 27 years to deal with IT again, but this film focuses of their young lives.
The film takes place in the late 80s, a slight change in time period from the original set in the 50s. The setting in Derry is slightly updated but still retains that old country, small town feel. Sticking to true Stephen King fashion, all of the adults in the story are either mentally/physically abusive or just straight up assholes. Another King-ism present is the idea of a dark presence that doesn’t just affect a certain group of people, but the entire town in which they live. Basically IT got everybody in Derry all the way messed up.
From the jump, Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise The Dancing Clown is nothing short of terrifying. The creature will slowly creep its way into every nook and crevice of the town, pop out to terrorize these children, and then just slink away as the film progresses, like nothing ever happened. Pennywise will run up on you in your bathroom. It’ll see you in your basement. It’ll catch you outside in broad daylight, “HOW BOUT DAT!?” It’ll watch you getting jumped and just sit there like, “walk it off partna, you getting your soul snatched next!” It don’t give a damn where you are or who you’re with; It has come for fear and won’t leave till it gets some. From design to demeanor, this character truly embodies fear itself; you’d be pound foolish to take Pennywise lightly.
The film really shines in showcasing the strength of the kids. They really know how to play off each other, whether it’s for dramatic or comedic effect. Jaeden Lieberher is great as Bill Denbrough, the stammering but confident leader of the group driven by the loss of his brother, to find and defeat the monster. His unassuming appearance is what makes his moments standout. Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard nails it as Richie Tozier, the comedian of the group who ironically has a deep fear of clowns. He’s got a knack for roles that involves a young kid using HBO-level language with his friends.
What makes this film more than two hours of jump scares is the way these kids’ everyday struggles run right alongside the main conflict. From body image to bullying, puberty to pedophilia, every member of The Losers has their own internal conflict that they have to deal with on top of having a giggling demon living in their shadows. The kids come together to protect each other and all the other kids at the mercy of Pennywise. Some people are comparing them to The Goonies; I feel they’re more like The Kids Next Door, who use their raw feelings as their makeshift weapon.
The whole cast ensemble is solid, all contributing to the camaraderie of the group.
However, it was disappointing to see Mike, the lone black child of the group played by Chosen Jacobs, was given little to no character development. There’s a scene in the middle of the movie where 6 of the kids are having a very innocent, heartfelt bonding experience. For a brief moment, the kids were free from their personal demons and were just kids. It would have been nice to have the token (yes he is a token) take part in some of their shared joy. It’s unclear if this was intentional to have him isolated from the group, but the impact feels like they didn’t have enough time to flesh him out. The film shows the pain he’s had to go through to get to this point in his life, but it was missing the same joyful nuances that made the other characters so well-rounded. Ben’s an ashamed New Kids On The Block fan, but what would a homeschooled black kid from Maine be interested in? Considering how the bullies treat him in the film, there’s probably a few good reasons why he stays close to home. Why not explore that more? He’s got a perfectly good storyline in the book, maybe y’all should have showed it some love.
IT goes hard. IT is a remake that takes all the beats from the original and hits each one with Rita Repulsa’s staff (“Make my monster GROW!”). For only his second feature film, Andy Muschietti straight up killed it. I didn’t even go to bed with the lights on after the Evil Dead remake, but THIS ONE? Whew. I had to install an airplane-esque lit hallway from the bathroom to my bedroom. The scenery? Dreary. The townspeople? Sinister. The kids? Compelling. The monster? Terrifying. Besides the storyline for the only female character being hella outdated and the only black character’s role needing more substance, this movie was an all around good time.
IT reminds you of the worst parts of middle school, that feeling that everyone is out to get you in a world you’re just beginning to understand, and in a body you’re still growing into. But it’ll also remind you of the people who helped you get through those tough times, and remind you that your fears are only as big as you make them. This movie had no business being as good as it was.
But seriously, warn a brother next time you plan to make a movie THAT scary. I literally walked past a pack of Depends in the 7–11 when I got my Butterfinger cups.
Author: Lorenzo Simpson
Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam