IT opened this weekend and broke all kinds of records. Currently, it’s the third highest grossing movie of 2017. Which is crazy. IT is a hard-R horror movie about an evil creature from outside time and space who takes the guise of a clown and murders children. Not exactly a crowd-pleasing subject. So let’s take a look at why I think this film has connected so well with audiences.
The Horror: IT doesn’t pull any punches. This is a dark film, and it knows it. The audience gets a real feel for how evil Pennywise is. There aren’t any discretion shots, pulling the camera away from something horrific. We see Pennywise (SPOILERS FOR A 31 YEAR OLD NOVEL) rip little Georgie’s arm off, and the film goes even farther than the novel or the 1990 miniseries, and we actually see Pennywise stretch out from the sewer and drag Georgie down with him. IT is a deeply disturbing movie, but it isn’t ashamed of this, or afraid to pull any punches.
The Characters: All of the actors in IT deserve all of the praise that has been and should continue to be heaped on them. Bill Skarsgard brings so much to Pennywise, who could’ve very easily been played very one note. Instead Skarsgard brings a great depth to this killer clown. Pennywise is simultaneously a cold, ruthless predator and a gleeful sadist; it feeds on the fear of children, but likes to play with its food first. All of the members of the Losers’ Club also bring a lot to this film. They feel like real kids. They are genuinely funny, and you get a real sense that they’re true friends dealing with something utterly terrifying.
The Story: IT goes beyond the horror genre. Rather than settle for simply scaring an audience, IT uses familiar horror tropes, like haunted houses and monsters to really dig into the themes of overcoming fear, the importance and the lasting bond of friendship, and the pains of growing up. Wisely, the film devotes as much time to these themes as it does to the interdimensional murder clown. The main characters are smart and charming. Their battle with Pennywise doesn’t come about because they drunkenly blundered into his campgrounds or stupidly refused to leave a clearly haunted house. They discover a terrible evil plaguing their town, hurting people they care about and they resolve to do something about it.
I highly recommend IT. It’s a great movie, with a moody and atmospheric soundtrack, excellent cinematography, wonderful performances, great special effects, and a lasting message. Yes, it’s a horror movie, and yes, you’ll probably be scared, but IT is one of those films that should be experienced in a theatre with an audience. So grab some friends, keep your eyes open, and go see IT. I promise I won’t think less of you if you avoid any open sewer grating after seeing it.