‘It’ takes audiences on a horrifying and hilarious ride

Michael Lane, Copy Editor

Photo courtesy of Collider/Warner Brothers.
Bill Skarsgård steps into the iconic role of killer clown “Pennywise” in this new take on Stephen King’s classic horror novel.

Every 27 years, “IT” comes back. Not only in the wildly popular fiction’s universe, but in our timeline as well. Many grew up with the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s acclaimed novel leaving a lasting effect, myself included. Now, 27 years later, and just like the characters in the film itself, a new generation will experience their own form of horror. This new version, courtesy of director Andy Muschietti, isn’t without some glaring faults, but is largely able to sidestep these issues due to its fantastic cast of young actors, a strong script that’s both horrifying and humorous and a profoundly unsettling take on an iconic villain.

“IT” opens in grand, terrifying fashion in adapting one of the story’s most iconic scenes. In the small town of Derry, children are going missing at inexplicably high rates, including middle schooler Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) younger brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). On a rainy October day in 1988, a bedridden Bill helps Georgie to construct a paper boat and sends him out alone to play, unaware that this would be the last time he would see his brother alive.

While Georgie does his best to keep up with the boat, the faster he runs to catch up to it seems to only feed into its own rising speed, the craft eventually spilling into a storm drain at the end of his block. Georgie peers inside to retrieve it, but is instead confronted by a mysterious figure residing in the sewer. The shadowy, shuddersome shape introduces itself as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown,” for the moment dispelling Georgie’s reluctance to strangers, but only reaffirming every audience member’s coulrophobia.

This clown is mad freaky in its appearance, bearing a tattered grey costume and chipping, dirty makeup caked upon its egg-shaped head with fiery-orange hair protruding out atop it. But while the visual itself could well enough fuel your clown-filled nightmares, it’s Bill Skarsgård’s striking performance that really strengthens the menacing character into something unforgettable, even when stacked up against the infamous and remarkable performance that the great Tim Curry effortlessly delivered in the original TV miniseries. The first victim in the film is Georgie, but it won’t be the last.

Following the noteworthy intro, “IT” falters in the build up to its satisfying climax with a particularly disjointed first hour that inefficiently attempts at introducing its many characters. We learn that Bill is the leader of a group of misfits who deem themselves the Losers’ Club, which will eventually, over the course of the film, include six others. Some of these characters are given far more attention than the others — namely Bill, Ben, Eddie and Bev. But even then, only Bill and Bev particularly stood out to me along with the often hilarious Richie, but his character also gets the least backstory of them all.

In introducing all of the characters separately, Muschietti takes time to show each kid’s individual fears, but this act is handled quite poorly through short vignettes that feel stitched together at random. We jarringly jump from Pennywise scaring one kid to another with no connective tissue between sequences, except the notion that by the second act they will have all come together and figured out that they’ve all been experiencing similar terrors.

Thankfully, the story gets back on track by the halfway point as the group decides to take Pennywise on themselves after discovering that the adults in town either don’t see the consequences of the demon or simply don’t care. From thereon out, the film becomes a fun ride with plenty of potential scares and wonderfully eerie horror set pieces.

The young cast here is incredibly charismatic and enjoys excellent chemistry together. And for the most part, the young actors and actress do very well in their roles, especially Sophia Lillis as Bev, Finn Wolfhard as Richie and Jaeden Lieberher as Bill, with the astounding Lillis particularly demanding attention while onscreen.

The set pieces I mentioned earlier range from being pretty cheesy to particularly impressive, with some of the forms that Pennywise takes on being more successful than others. There’s actually a lot of awful CGI employed here, but the creative designs of the monstrosities outweigh the lackluster execution for me. There’s also a distinct lack of built up tension in some of the scenes due to the film’s reliance on foreseen jump scares, leaving me to wish that Muschietti would have decided to keep some things hidden in the shadows, lurking, rather than constantly hitting the audience over the head with in-your-face, haunted house-like attractions.

Alongside its 1990 counterpart, this “IT” is definitively a better telling of King’s novel, but it isn’t flawless. With everything that is good about the film, there’s something else holding it back from being a modern classic. The acting is great, but most of the characters are painfully underdeveloped. Pennywise is terrifying, but the sometimes shoddy effects have the opportunity to ruin the film’s otherwise scariest moments. The cinematography is compelling, but the score is standard horror fare. “IT” ends up being a good film, but not a great one as I had hoped.

Michael Lane is a junior public relations/advertising major with a marketing minor. This is his second year as a Flyer copy editor. He unabashedly loves the 90s sitcom “Roseanne.”

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