By Shaiann Frazier
If you want to be scared and laugh at the same time, the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 bestselling novel, “IT” is the movie for you. Director Andres Muschietti does an excellent job of exposing the individuality of each character in depth, while adding an element of comedy which was missing in the 1990 version, a two-part TV miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace.
Muschietti updates and internalizes King’s story of several Maine teenagers who unite against two attacks---relentless bullying and terrorism from an ancient shapeshifting creature which they call IT. IT mainly manifests as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård), and preys on and murders children using supernatural powers that feed off the fears of its victims. What makes the creature so terrifying is that it can only be seen by children and goes undetected by adults. IT also appears every 27 years, otherwise hiding in the local sewer system of fictional Derry, Maine.
With a $35 million budget, almost triple that of the miniseries, Muscheietti’s version focuses less on brute horror and more on the individuality and struggles of each character. The use of drama balances out the brutality of the movie, which helps the audience empathize with each character. Take Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), for example, who struggles with an abusive father and school rumors about her. Her friend Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), another victim of IT’s attacks, suffers from mysophobia and an overbearing mother. Even though the movie is set up to scare the audience, each character affected by IT has to endure their own struggles in their personal life while attempting to not become another victim of the terrifying clown.
Muschietti also focuses heavily on the bond that brothers, Billy (Jaeden Lieberher) and Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), share. From the opening scene, it is evident how much Georgie means to Billy, especially when Billy creates a boat for Georgie to sail in the pouring rain, and calls it “SS Georgie.” The moment after they hug before Georgie goes out to play will have your heart pounding.
But in terms of pure terror, Wallace’s film does a better job with the awful Pennywise, who appears within the first ten minutes, by intensifying each scene where IT appears. For those who have seen the first adaptation, it is safe to say that the more Pennywise appears, the more scared the audience becomes, and the more difficult it becomes to gauge Pennywise’s next move, especially in the sewer scene when IT appears to all seven teenagers at the same time. Likewise, rather than emphasizing the relationship between brothers, Billy and Georgie, Wallace focuses heavily on how Pennywise affects Billy’s mental state along with the other characters. This build-up of anticipation makes Pennywise appear more unpredictable compared to the 2017 adaptation where one can expect the appearance of IT, although Pennywise doesn’t show up until 30 minutes into the film. For fans of the original, just having to wait for the awful Pennywise can be a deal-breaker.
However, if you can overlook some minor plot changes and Pennywise jumping out at you from the screen, the latest, “IT” will have you laughing while gripping your seat tightly in anticipation. For that darker and more subtle suspense, this film is worth every minute.