By Owen Steffan ’18
From children cracking jokes one minute to scaring audiences with a killer clown the next, “It” finds success with its seamless blend of humor and terror. Based on the critically acclaimed 1986 Stephen King novel of the same title, this highly anticipated R-rated horror film takes place in the 1980s in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. After several odd disappearances of the town’s youth, seven children quickly find themselves menaced by a terrifying, shapeshifting killer clown known as Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgard). As they discover that Derry’s adults don’t realize the weird happenings in the town, the children decide to fight Pennywise themselves.
The self-proclaimed “Losers’ Club” is led by stuttering Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) who is out to avenge the premature death of his younger brother, Georgie, the clown’s first victim. The club also includes the loudmouthed Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) and the hypochondriacal Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer). Each member of the Losers’ Club has to deal with bullies, strict parents, and/or young love. Rounded out by Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) this group consists of lovable yet damaged children, who have each been affected in their own ways. These members of The Losers’ Club are almost impossible not to relate to, but what really makes it great is their sense of humor.
Humor is something rarely seen in modern day horror, and it can add a whole other element to the table when done right. Wolfhard shines in particular in the role of Richie, constantly making unexpected but hilarious jabs at his friends or showing off one of his many voices. Sometimes, the movie is so funny that it makes you forget that you’re watching a film about a killer clown. Director Andrés Muschietti and his writers (Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman) do a great job balancing the amusing moments of the film with the eerie ones.
It, a mysterious being that morphs into whatever/whoever it pleases, most commonly appears as Pennywise and terrorizes each kid in unique ways that feed on their individual fears, and through that, terrorizes the viewer as well. Skarsgard brings a level of insanity to the table with his downright chilling portrayal of the clown. Leaving red balloons wherever he goes, Pennywise’s menacing eyes and creepy smile are enough to freak out even the toughest of people. One scene that stands out in particular is when Pennywise is talking to Georgie in the sewer drain. The clown is seen with blood and water spilling out of his mouth, and he doesn’t bother to wipe his chin or even acknowledge the mess. This might seem like a very miniscule example, but it is one of the aspects that make Skarsgard’s portrayal so brilliant. Skarsgard makes sure Pennywise is as inhuman as possible, even with small details added to the character, which in effect makes for one of the most terrifying horror villains of recent memory.
“It” is not just one of the best horror films of the year, but one of the best films so far in 2017. “It” toys with viewers’ emotions by putting characters that are just too hard not to love in terrifying situations, while also adding lighthearted moments of banter.