It (2017)

Pennywisedark

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Written by: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman (screenplay); Stephen King (based on the novel by)

Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard

“You’ll float too.” — Jackson Robert Scott as Georgie

•  •  •

It obviously isn’t a movie that I should have seen by now, seeing as it hit theaters just a few hours ago. And even if we were talking about the 1990 TV miniseries, well that’s just not something I would label as “must-see programming.”

Seriously, it’s over-the-top garbage that I tried to watch a couple months ago. Take my advice: Don’t put yourself through that.

But I really felt the need to write about the new edition, as it was the trailer of this movie that finally got me to pick the 1,000+ page Stephen King book off my shelf and devour the horror classic.

I was all in on the hype.

And after investing so much of my time into this psychopathic clown’s lore, I’m happy to say that I did not walk away disappointed. In fact, I’m pretty damn pleased.

It excels because it’s funhouse horror. Director Andy Muschietti (2013’s Mama) isn’t trying to give you the biggest frights of your life or gross you out with Saw-like gore. Instead he enters the ring with two weapons: Humor and warmth.

Pennywise the Clown is scary, no doubt, but Bill Skarsgård gives a physically jolting performance (which is CGI-assisted at times) that has the added bonus of genuine frivolity. Every time Pennywise appears, the scene instantly becomes more memorable. But it’s usually not through sheer terror. Sure, there are the occasional jump scares, but it’s mostly fascinating to see what this monster can morph into, or how he will react to the children’s ability to fight back. Each scene with Skarsgård has some kind of surprise element, making you want the monster to come back again and again.

Pennywise goes toe-to-toe with The Losers’ Club, a group of seven kids who are just entering their teens. After they all begin encountering Pennywise while they’re on their own, they decide to fight the clown together. But the real magic from the Losers comes from Muschietti’s ability to build these on-screen friendships in a believable and funny way. While there is definitely some sloppy exposition (and probably one too many dick jokes, even for teenage boys), each of the child actors delivers a solid and endearing performance that is not easy to find in modern horror.

There’s one scene in It that I can’t stop thinking about. It occurs when the Losers are looking at projector slides on a wall in the garage. The way that Pennywise appears is absolutely terrifying, but in the best possible way. I have to see this movie again just to rewatch that scene.

I had a smile on my face as I watched this film. And it’s not because It was cheesy or overly silly. It’s because each of the scares was just downright fun. This film probably won’t give you nightmares, but it will get you talking about your favorite movie monsters of all time — and Skarsgård’s Pennywise deserves to be in the conversation.

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