By Andrews Jenck
I’m back and more terrifying than ever! Having been burdened with school and athletics, I’ve had little time to review movies, much less see them. One film in particular that my friends talked about endlessly was IT, an adaption of Stephen King’s novel by the same name that thankfully isn’t The Dark Tower. After finally watching it for the first time, it’s easy to see why it struck a chord with so many people. It’s a very well-made film with great acting; a compelling score, hilarious at points, shot gorgeously, and is one of the better films of the year. I only wish that this horror film was a little more, well, horrifying.
The biggest problem of IT is the execution of some of its scares, opting for the typical jump scares and loud, obnoxious sound effects throughout, amidst a few legitimate scares. Granted, I know different people are scared of different things, and maybe these techniques will be effective for you. However, as someone who does get caught off guard by these jumps, I only groan afterwards as it is such a cheap way to evoke fear from the audience. That’s not to say it falls entirely flat in this regard, as director Andres Muschiette seems to have the right ideas in place. Certain sequences, particularly involving the projector from the trailers, a bathroom sink scene, and in a warehouse, showcase some great cinematography. However, even among its disturbing imagery, the film always feels the need to overemphasize it with DAUUUUUNGs!
That being said, everything else is superb. The child actors evoke a natural kinship and fully realize the hormone-filled, vulgar-speaking, young teens that give the film a sense of believability. While everyone does fit the standard archetype, the film well-establishes their friendship and fleshes them out through slower moments and interactions. Everyone is empathetic, in which you either were one of these kids or knew someone like them, adding required levity to a film of this type. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score has a nice balance of light-hearted whimsy and suspense that may be worth downloading. When paired with the gorgeous cinematography, you get a great sense of Derry, suckering you into its relatable but unnerving atmosphere. It is able to evoke a timeless feel while working in its 80s setting, particularly involving New Kids on the Block references which are used hilariously and endearingly. The film also can be quite humorous, coming from the characters’ explicit but apathetic dialogue and most of the scenes with Pennywise, the killer clown.
Bill Skarsgard is especially effective as Pennywise, looking more childish than Tim Curry’s original portrayal, which works in the context of the film. Pennywise is a playful clown that loves to psychologically mess with the children and has some hilarious dark humor moments, beyond that internet meme. His small smile and sinisterly soft voice are particularly effective in building up suspense and dread. Unfortunately, the film has Pennywise take the form of several overused staples in horror, including zombies, dolls, demonic girls, and mummies. Again, some of it is effective but the constant jump scares and loud cues ruin much of the suspense the film was building up so well. If anything, I felt more investment than panic for these characters, probably because there’s nothing to the threat besides a killer clown. Yes, Pennywise is supernatural who represents the kids’ worst fears, but I feel there could’ve been something to add or flesh out more.
Still, if there’s one thing that annoys me more than horror films, it’s having bland characters for the sake of a large body count. I ended up caring for all of these kids, even if their roles were questionable; that in of itself is an accomplishment. Any other flaws are pretty minor, such as some underdeveloped bully characters, going a little too over-the-top at moments, a needless romance, and some forced clichés in the last act. It’s refreshing to see a low-budget film by an upcoming director and actors earn financial and critical success. I wished I loved it like everyone else and feel it may be a little too safe in certain aspects, but IT is a highly enjoyable, solid film to the point where I won’t mind too many people dressing up as Pennywise this Halloween.