What we do with our fears determines how we grow. Stephen King’s It is a tale of a monster-like being that feeds on children’s fears, and Andy Muschietti takes on the task of adapting it for the silver screen. Bill Skarsgard fills in the shoes of Pennywise the clown, and he’s joined by a group of young, talented actors, including, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Lieberher, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Finn Wolfhard, from Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Muschietti creates a very eerie atmosphere for this film, which takes place in the fictional town of Derry. The screenplay develops the backstories for each child of “The Losers’ Club” and allows us to really get involved in their growth throughout the story. We are able to relate to at least one of them based on their personality, what they fear, or both. Screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Funkunaga, and Gary Dauberman capture the unsettling feeling of Stephen King’s novel.
Now, is it scary? Yes, it belongs in the horror genre, but it’s not as scary as you might think. Creepy is a better word to describe the film, because Pennywise uses the children’s fears against them in disturbing ways. There are some well thought out jump scares, but nothing that will last past the theater doors. In addition, you can anticipate most of them. Pennywise amplifies the real fears of the children, whether it’s a death in the family, an abusive parent, germs, guilt, or even clowns. Pennywise is a representation of the hurdles our real fears set up in front of us. Although the CGI is used a little too much, it is used creatively to really show the capabilities of Pennywise, as he is able to take on any form, and manifest the children’s fears.
The young actors do a wonderful job in their respective roles. Jaeden Lieberher is compelling as the stuttering Bill Denbrough, a boy who lost his little brother Georgie to Pennywise. He makes for an unlikely, yet convincing, leader of the pack, driven by the guilt and pain of Georgie’s death. Finn Wolfhard as Richie, a fast-talking smart-ass, is the lovable jerk of the group. Wolfhard’s delivery is on point, as he says all the wrong things at the right times. Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, a tough outcast with an abusive father, shines in her layered role. She was really able to tap into the role of a survivor, both mentally and physically. All of the kids in the film have distinct personalities, and delivered in every single scene.
Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is unsettling to observe. His mischievous voice and odd movements make his scenes very tense. At times, he comes at you like a madman on crack, and in others, he is quietly haunting. There are some scenes where he’s talking like a human, and then suddenly pauses in an eerie manner. The odd details that Skarsgard added to the character make It more disturbing, making wish they used less CGI. From his dirty white costume, to his oddly piercing yellow eyes, Pennywise is a sinister entity.
Muschietti mixes up plenty of humorous scenes in the film too, but when it transitions to horror, it does so seamlessly. The film also uses the background very well to create some unnerving scenes; especially the one in the library. It’s very subtle, but effective nonetheless.
Muschietti’s take on It is a success, boasting talented performances, solid character development, and a disturbing atmosphere. Stephen King’s group of underdog kids are easy to relate to and root for, making all of them notable protagonists in Pennywise’s nightmare. The pivotal question this horror film asks is this: are we going to run away from our fears or confront them and grow? The Losers’ Club has to deal with that very question, and so do we.