While many are rightfully skeptical of Stephen King movie adaptations—simply watch The Dark Tower—most will be extremely surprised and incredibly pleased with It. This film is an adaptation that, while staying faithful to its source material, is able to be its own entity. It chooses to omit and accentuate parts of the book in an independent artistic fashion. The film is a refreshing mixture of horror, thriller, comedy, and depth. But most importantly, it is a well-scripted, well-directed, and superbly acted piece of cinema.
On the surface, this film is about a mysterious clown, Pennywise, or It, (Bill Skarsgård) that, for mysterious reasons, torments the quiet town of Derry, Maine. The clown starts by gruesomely abducting and killing a little boy Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) and later takes it upon himself to terrorize Georgie’s brother, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and Bill’s group of friends—the Losers Club. In an attempt to rid the town of this ancient evil, the kids deal must confront their worst, most deeply held fears head on.
In true blockbuster fashion, the movie opens with a scene that leaves the viewers with their jaws on the floor. The director carefully makes the audience care for the two brothers and their strong bond (Georgie and his brother Bill) only to then quickly rip the relationship apart. What follows next is something that has been missing from this summer’s movies: characterization. Much like Spielberg did in Jaws, director Andy Muschietti hooks the audience with a riveting and engaging scene and then invites them into its characters’ lives: their family, their personality, and most importantly, their fears.
On a deeper level, this movie is about fear itself, especially in relationship to childhood. It perfectly details how isolating fear can be when no one believes or understands you, and how the power of friendship can help you overcome said fear. It is often said that “nothing brings people together like a common enemy,” and never has that been more true than in this movie. The bond shared by the Losers Club is genuine, they are outcasts and pariahs, and the child actors convey that through their sullen performances. Each character is used strategically—both by the film and by the Losers Club itself—to play up their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. No single character seems superfluous.
The reason this film works so well seems evident—everyone involved is doing their best work. The cinematography works wonders to haunt the viewers, yet simultaneously intrigue them. Through its use of camera pans and unsettling tilts, the cinematographer invites the viewers to experience the horror with the children. The editing cuts out or lingers when it needs to in order to create a truly terrifying yet entertaining experience. The score fits the story and the action in unexpected ways. It is loud and alarming when it needs to be, but it does not shy away from being quiet and intimate in more tranquil scenes. The script is tailor made to captivate the audience and to create truly memorable characters. Wonderfully structured and paced, the script creates a cinematic experience that will be remembered as a classic.
The acting is believable, endearing, nuanced, and layered. Some standouts are Bill, Eddie and Beverly. The film knows this, and focuses a lot of its screen time on these three. While at first shy and reserved, Bill grows into a leader and makes the audience want to follow him. In the middle of the movie, the audience sees Bill deliver a truly poignant speech and it elicits a feeling in the kids and the audience that a lesser actor would not have been able to convey. Eddie is one of the characters with the most personality. He is very different from the other kids and the performance by Grazer conveyed that wonderfully. Finally, Beverly (Sophia Lilis) is the most intriguing of them all. Her fears come from a deeper and darker place than many of the other members of The Losers Club. Her character is likeable and relatable from the second she appears on screen. The rest of the children perform very well, adding to the overall quality of the film.
Muschietti’s directing perfectly captures the essence of all these components and creates a film like no other. He brings a sense of reality to a film that is very much unbelievable and creates what is one of the best King adaptations to date. Even if you are not a fan of horror films, this is a film you cannot miss. It is fun and exciting while still being deep and interesting. It has its jumps and scares like you’d expect, but they do not overtake the movie. Viewers will get invested in the characters and the story right away, leaving you waiting for the sequel.
Featured Image by Warner Bros.