After 27 years of hibernation, Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) is back — hungrier, creepier and more disturbing than ever. Director Andy Muschietti (best known for “Mama”) brings his take on author Stephen King’s classic horror story to a new generation, thirsty for a film that has its scares without sacrificing anything else. “It” provides just as much comedy and drama as it does screams, giving the audience stories to ponder and jokes to laugh at — a breather when things get too intense — without ever letting the audience get too comfortable and forget what they signed up to experience: fear.
Set in the late ’80s, the film tells the story of a town called Derry, where the disappearance of children seems to have become a common event. The start of summer brings an interesting few months for Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie Kaspbrack (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff), who bond with Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) and Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) over their outcast status, naming themselves the “Losers Club.” The group of pre-teens, while exploring the current mystery of their hometown, get caught up in the middle of its treachery, as they discover that it’s not a “who” that’s involved in the vanishings of the kids, but a “what.” An evil entity, which they baptize as It, manifests itself as a clown named Pennywise that rises from the sewers every 27 years to feed off children before its next slumber. The friends must face off against the murderous creature while it digs into each of their individual phobias, forcing them all to either cower or confront their personal demons along the way.
After smashing box office records for the biggest horror movie opening of all time, it is easy to see why “It” is a timeless story, one that is able to any viewer’s skin crawl. The child actors are a large part of what makes the movie great — not only do they have great chemistry, but they also know how to act, keeping to their method as maturely as adults. Their performances are enjoyable, even more so than those of their elders, who barely even make an appearance; and, in all honesty, that just makes “It” even better.
Other than a great script and cast, “It”’s cinematography and special effects are another spooky, intriguing spectacle all on their own. The game Muschietti plays with the camera is one that taunts the audience in a way that some may not notice yet subconsciously messes with audience members’ heads.
Muschietti masterfully gives audience members a sense of false security through the angles and positioning of his camera, so even though they are not jumping straight out of their seats, their hearts are still somersaulting. Through the special effects “It” portrays one of its most outstanding qualities: the power to disturb with a smile. The makeup Skarsgard adopts for his role as Pennywise transforms him from human to creature. Skarsgard plays his role so well that it’s easy to forget there is a man behind Pennywise. The way drool slips and drips from Pennywise’s blood red lips, while its eyes stay still, and the way it bares its teeth could make anyone cringe and look away. This face, which Pennywise wears during the whole movie, stays imprinted on the mind like a nightmare, unexplainable and unwanted. The clown’s laughter echoes, as if wherever it goes it brings the sewers along and with them their eerie shadows of lost shoes and hopes; and no one is spared from Benjamin Wallfisch’s intense soundtrack, which lies in the background of every scene, just like Pennywise, waiting to pounce.
Pennywise’s smile will haunt you, its eyes will perturb you and its laugh will unsettle you. It’s a good thing, then, that the sequel is already under works and set to be released in 2019. Ultimately, King lives up to his name of “King of Horror” and leaves it clear that though many can try to dethrone him, few will succeed.