Revisiting the horror of Stephen King’s cult classic from 27 years ago, Hollywood has invited Pennywise – the demonic clown – to the silver screen, who bizarrely enough wakes up every 27 years to ‘prey on fear’. Combined with Andrés Muschietti astounding direction and an astonishing screenplay, the prolific works of the author have been put to focus to make It more than just a flashy horror spectacle.
Comparing this version with the 90s TV miniseries, which was inspired by the same book and captured some of the essence of the story, this version with its adult version cinema rating manages to capture the youthfulness of character development that King so delightfully puts focus on in all of his works. Bringing in a cast of extremely talented young actors; Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, and Jack Dylan Grazer, the heavily cast dramatics and comedic relief just when needed has been well balanced. The great chemistry submerged between the actors really shines onscreen as they play roles of kids hitting puberty. And let us just say, Bill Skarsgård has us in for a whole new level of respectful fear of clowns as he plays the role of Pennywise, the antagonist demonic clown who shape shifts into our worst fears. Preys on fear. Lives on fear. And leaves you scarred after coming out of the theatre.
The film begins with Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), a young teenage boy sending off his little brother Georgie with a brand new paper boat to play with in the rain. There, the little guy meets Pennywise in the sewers. Pennywise makes small talk, bites off the boy’s arm, and drags him in to the abyss. Flash forward a few months later, Bill recruits a suicide squad of his own, aka ‘The Losers Club’ including kids of all genres. These include the king of sarcasm, the kid of colour, the geek, the slightly plump kid, the one who shies away in every horror movie for good reasons, and the girl who is the strong fearless badass, but is also a diva and steals everyone’s hearts with her one gaze. Together they go on a mission to find Bill’s little brother, and also come of age in the process.
“You’ll float too!” is often how one would describe feeling while watching the movie. The message is very strong. The movie highlights the problems of the society that kids face in the most ghastly of circumstances. It may be the bully teenagers bolstering in your neighbourhood or it may be the physical abuse a young adult might face at home (referring to Beverly Marsh; played by Sophia Mills who is sexually exploited by her father). The common themes explained in the movie refer to the psychological states the society puts the teenagers through and how it affects their psyche while growing up to be young men and women.
While Andrés Muschietti’s Pennywise takes form of grim creatures through CGI effects, which sometimes is a distraction in the movie rather than an explanation, along some flimsy moments where the plot is lost in translation, the humour put appropriately into the situations is to be appreciated. Skarsgård, while having few dialogues, does justice to the character of the clown, and takes creepy to a whole new level. He displays an apt description of changing from a cotton candy loving circus clown to an alien, claws for teeth, serial killer vibe of a demon.
Like some of the King’s best literary dramatics, the movie is made to be larger than life and not just a flashy horror/psychological thriller that would be talk of the town for only a week. It is meant to have a lasting effect, and it does the job brilliantly. It is the harmonious matrimony between today’s Hollywood blockbuster, and the old genius of method acting.