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A group of children, are hunted by a creature who feeds on the fears and phobias of the young people who live in the small town of Derry, Main.
“Welcome to The Loser’s Club, asshole!”
This movie is based on the first part of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name. It is not, as some may think, a remake of the 1990 made for TV mini-series, this is the first theatrical film adaptation of the story.
My first viewing actually left me a little shaken, and not just because of Bill Skarsgård’s delightful blend of playfully wicked and ominous in his performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The themes explored in this movie are dark, deeply intense, and made even more so because our heroes are all about 11 years-old. (To avoid spoilers directly in the review, I’ve added the themes as tags.) The screenwriters cherry picked the most iconic parts of the book and allowed homages to the mini series and managed to give the audience a truly chilling introduction to our young heroes and one of the most terrifying of fictional villains/monsters. One of the disturbing aspects of this creature, It, is that only children can see It and It only hunts children. If this metaphor, that adults do not take children’s fears and worries seriously, is lost on the viewer, then the statement should be driven home in no uncertain terms when a car of adults drives slowly by, but does not stop, as a group of bullies are abusing one of our heroes.
“The Loser’s Club” is what our youthful heroes call themselves. Their leader, Billy, Jaeden Lieberher, whose younger brother, Georgie’s mysterious disappearance was only the beginning of children all over Derry going missing. Richie, Fin Wolfhard, the class clown who handles everything with sarcasm. Eddie, Jack Dylan Grazer, who struggles with his overprotective mother and fear of his own fragile health. Stan, Wyatt Oleff, the insecure Rabbi’s son. Ben, Jeremy Ray Taylor, the overweight new kid, traumatized and abused by the local bully and his gang. Beverly, Sophia Lillis, strong and determined despite the rumors spread about her at school, and her father’s abuse. And Mike, Chosen Jacobs, an orphan being home-schooled by his grandfather, trying to recover from the loss of his parents, and struggling with violent and racist bullies.
Speaking of violent, racist, bullies, let us not forget our non-supernatural villain, who, frankly, would have made this a horror movie, although of the “Lifetime Original Movie” variety, without “It.” Henry, Nicholas Hamilton, is the rather unhinged leader of his gang of bullies, he is constantly lashing out with whatever weapon he has, fists, words, or switchblade, and has his own demon to whom he must answer. His sidekicks don’t really get fleshed out much in the film, but it’s a complex story with a lot of characters and I’m glad that they did such a good job with Henry rather than trying to shove more incomplete supporting, and less interesting characters.
This was an emotionally evocative, heart wrenching story which had a couple scenes that left the audience feeling like a deer-in-the-headlights, knowing they could do nothing to prevent the horrors unfolding on screen. And, since I can think of no other good reason why this movie should effect me more than other horror movies, I give full credit to outstanding source material, a good script, fantastic direction, and a wonderfully talented cast. Although I loved most of the cinematography, I thought several of the scenes were simply too dark (lighting, not theme) and it was difficult to catch all the details. Still, I gave this 4 1/2 bottles of soda.