If you’re going to see IT expecting a terrorizing horror film, you may leave slightly disappointed. Everything else, however, is a wholeheartedly good time. In a nutshell, IT is about a group of kids banding together to defeat the monstrosity known as Pennywise. Pennywise’s greatest strength comes from being able to utilize each person’s greatest fear against them, thus often manifesting itself into the form of a clown.
The first third or so of the movie doesn’t take many creative or narrative risks, and is marred by the occasional hit-or-miss piece of dialogue delivery, sprinkled in with healthy servings of jump scares. Each of the characters receives their own unique introduction, and thankfully, serve as a solid starting point to their eventual growth. And I say thankfully, because if it were instead a bore-fest, then you’d have over 7 intros eating up copious amounts of time.
Once this passes, the movie snaps into place and genuinely starts to surprise me.
While each of the kids are fairly interesting on their own, it’s their interactions amongst the entirety of the group that works to perfection. Generally speaking, kids have a tendency to act irrationally, communicate using vulgar language, and most importantly—learn from mistakes. All of these aspects come to fruition in a way that feels both authentic, and hilarious. The importance of this can’t be overstated, since IT is largely a film about the kids themselves, and their ability (or lack thereof) to face their fears. Their varying levels of immaturity, snappy comments, and dorkish quips had me reassessing the bar at which child actors should be held to. If you took any joy at all from watching Netflix’s Stranger Things, then you’ll feel right at home.
Though the rag-tag group of kids carry the weight of the film in glorious fashion, it doesn’t come without its fair share of flaws. It feels like there’s a fair amount of indecision going on behind the camera. Characters will share an exceptional moment, only to be followed up by horror movie tropes and erratic pacing. It’ll start to feel a bit long in the tooth by the film’s conclusion, but at this point, we—the audience—have invested so much into each character that we’re entranced to see it through.
Pennywise, the movie's main antagonist, is most frightening in the early stages of the film—mostly due to the few moments in which it makes an appearance. H.P. Lovecraft once said that, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." This holds perfectly true as we envision Pennywise as something much scarier when the mind has to fill in the blanks. Once it shows its true form, it becomes significantly less scary—but this could be considered deliberate, since the children start to share similar views as the movie goes on.
Despite some of the directorial inconsistencies, IT is a (mostly) refreshing take on the horror genre. While it ventures dangerously close to reinventing what the genre could look like going forward, it does more than enough to set a solid foundation. Horror started off the year with Get Out, and now we have IT. Should this pace keep up, then count me in for the long haul.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.