Within the misty Northeast of Maine, rests a place called Derry, that seems like any other white-picket fence small town with a main street and a parade every forth of July. In the sewers, however, lies an evil that has appeared in many forms, but for the children that have encountered it, see him as Pennywise, the dancing clown. This is the description of one of the most famous Stephen King stories, It. Though the books goes into a lot of existential material on how the creatures comes from outside the universe, the story of a clown haunting a town has scared a generation a book readers. The material seemed almost like an urban legend.
Many people were introduced to It through the 1990 miniseries that had Tim Curry as Pennywise. Split into two parts, it had some problems as while the parts set during the childhood was entertaining, the adult parts were underwhelming and unimpressive. It seemed that the strength of the story was about the children having to face their fears while they tried to defeat this evil clown. A movie would need extensive rewriting, but had potential. It brings Pennywise back after a twenty-seven year slumber, ready to haunt a new generation…perhaps the old generation as well.
On a rainy day in 1988, a young boy named Georgie is eaten by a figure in a storm sewer who introduces himself as Pennywise the dancing clown (played by Bill Skarsgård) Without a body, the adults of Derry, Maine simply report him missing, along with many other children that seem to disappear over the year. In June of 1989, the kids are out of school as they try to make the most of their summer. The overweight new kid on the block Ben tries to research the history of the town and the missing children, but has an encounter with Pennywise and a group of bullies lead by Henry Bowers.
Beaten, his wounds are tended by stuttering Bill, big-mouthed Ritchie, Jewish bookworm Stan, hypochondriac Eddie, and outcast girl Beverly. The kids declare themselves “The Losers Club” as they have always sensed something wrong with the town, as each have encountered Pennywise in a form that strikes their fear. They come to understand that the clown is powerful and may have been around for hundreds of years. Understanding that the curse will continue, they make their way to the sewers to try and defeat Pennywise.
I’ll admit upfront that director Andy Muschieti understand that It is not a horror story, but rather a coming of age story with horror elements; think The Goonies meets Nightmare on Elm Street. For the most part, it really work as a whole. The movie does take its time to show how each kid grows up during that eventful summer. Fear is a boundary from adolescence to adulthood, and the writing shows that with a town as crazy as Derry, just why these losers needed to go through this experience.
All the child actors are very likable in their part. Like The Goonies and The Sandlot, you get a sense that they must be friends in real life to reflect this kind of honest chemistry. There wasn’t a moment where I dreaded having to follow one over the other; they were interesting enough that you want to see through their troubles. How about Pennywise? Bill Skarsguåd is simply terrifying and unnerving as the clown. I won’t say if he’s better then Tim Curry as the performance is different. Unlike the miniseries, this Pennywise is more childlike and unearthly. His design his fantastic and better draws from the fact he’s been then for a while.
Does this make It a masterpiece? Almost. There were moments that the humor and drama don’t match the situations. The ones with Pennywise do, but its with the kids that’s a tad harder. There are moments where after an attack or something bad happening, one of them (mostly Ritchie) will try to let off a joke or swear that just doesn’t fit the situation. It’s something that might have worked with more thought put into the dialogue. But other then that, this will probably be Stephen Kings most watched movie in a while.
I’ll give this four and a half red balloons out of five. Despite an R rating, I’d say that this may be a good start for older children (I’ll say twelve to be safe) that want to get into watching horror movies. It may even be an interesting family outing to talk about this, the book and everything the kids just went through. If you have a fear of clowns, brace yourself. It is a lot of things, including an entertaining movie.