Review of "It" (2017 Movie)
There's only so many horror movies that have actually horrified me. It, is one of those. Based on the novel by Stephen King (Duh!) this is not the first adaptation of the book. There was a TV movie version of it back in the 90's, which honestly creeped the hell out of me when I was a kid. That It, was Seseme Street compared to this one.
The entire film has the feeling of being a terrified child scared of everything around. Which, I'm thinking was intentionally done because the novel feels the same way. King created a story of childhood trauma that wasn't just about a killer clown terrorizing children; it's about the vulnerability of being a child, both physical and psychological.
It starts out with two young brothers, Bill and Georgie, building a paper boat together and Georgie, the younger brother chasing the boat down the street in a rain storm. The boat goes down the sewer drain, where the young boy meets Pennywise the Clown (Bill Saarsgard). Pennywise seems friendly enough at first (for a guy lurking in a sewer) but the scene takes a terrifying turn and we know that this is not a film where young children are off limits as prey.
Never mind the killer clown, the kids in this movie have enough problems as it is. They have sadistic bullies to deal with; bullies who make the bullies in Stand By Me look like the cast of Glee. Not to mention parents who are either emotionally distant, abusive, or pathologically overprotective. This is where the movie differs from other horror movies: There's personal terror involved that actually makes them human instead of just targets.
While the villain of the story is as sublimely frightening as a Freddy Krueger, he doesn't outshine his potential victims to the point where you want him to kill the poor saps like with Freddy. The kids in this movie are sympathetic and authentic as opposed to the cardboard knockoffs in other horror flicks. What's more surprising: the kids who play them can actually act! These are kid characters who just want to have fun and be safe and they find that in each other in a believable way. The friendships between the kids are not just something that would be taken for granted like in a lesser film, this movie takes the time to establish them.
Director Andy Muschetti is clearly not out to create just another horror movie to scare the pants off an audience. While that visceral aspect is more than accomplished, the chilling intensity is almost always there, the cerebral components are always there too. The filmmakers are faithful to the novel in that they care about the emotional process of the characters as much as making them wet themselves. The constant attacks on the characters seems more like a tough love put upon these kids instead of just a malicious punishment for wanting sex, like one might see in a Halloween movie for instance. What makes this horror film unique and brilliant is that the potential victims come out changed and developed after the terror, not just the same clear-headed blank slates.