The It factor Hollywood has been searching for
horoughly terrifying and utterly mind-blowing, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s It exceeds expectations and promises enough trauma-fueled nightmares to last a lifetime. Seamlessly translated from book to screen, It redefines the rules of horror and raises the bar for its genre by tapping into psychological elements in leaving a haunting impression. Far from the typical scary movie, It combines a stellar plot, outstanding character portrayal and a profound commentary on people’s internal evils that challenges audiences.
Following a group of seven teenage misfits known as the Loser Club during the summer of 1989, It takes place in the small town of Derry, Maine. The scares begin instantly with the brutal murder of the adorable Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) and the introduction of the ancient, shape-shifting evil that takes the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård, Allegiant). Emerging from the sewers every 27 years to wreak havoc on the town and prey on the fears of innocent children such as Georgie, the infamous Pennywise forces the teens to band together and overcome their own personal struggles to defeat the murderous clown.
King has admitted that It is one of his most personal writings, which makes the plot all the more elaborate and intriguing to see projected onto the big screen. Hitting on some very sensitive and complex topics such as chronic bullying, sexual and verbal abuse, and neglect, the story stands as one string of metaphors after another, suggesting that maybe everyday life is scarier than the monsters that quite literally terrorize the kids in the flick. While it’s difficult to determine how much of the tale King himself can relate to, the additional meaning that his connection generates makes It’s implied message all the more powerful.
Even with the multitude of frights that plague movie-goers from start to finish, what’s truly horrifying about It is the ability of the ominous Skarsgård to perfectly embody the chilling role of Pennywise. Personifying fear itself, Skarsgård has a vital and hefty responsibility, which he remarkably executes with ease. When charged with bringing to life a character that carries such magnitude, it’s all too easy for important elements to be lost in translation; however, Skarsgård effectively depicts the best components of Pennywise. Having tons of experience already under his belt, Skarsgård once again proves his talent and commitment to the craft. The authentic terror seen in every one of the his interactions with his younger costars adds to the storyline without being over the top, an appreciated quality of It.
Taking on the part of the guilt-ridden older brother, Billy, Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent) succeeds in adding a lighter mood to an otherwise depressing and dark plot. At 14 years of age, the sophistication of the teen’s acting and his dedication to the role is something that should not go unrecognized. Lieberher’s emotional connection to the part is reflected superbly onscreen, allowing the audience better insight into the pain his character experiences bearing the weight of his little brother’s death on his conscience. Despite the hardships he goes through, Lieberher manages to incorporate both the hardships and joys of growing up, creating a truly multi-dimensional role that will be exciting to see developed further in time with the tale’s second chapter.
Already the highest grossing horror film of all time, It sheds light on important issues while disturbing audiences to their core. Incomplete by design, dedicated fans of the flick can look forward to a second installment in the near future. In the meantime, the carefully crafted cinematic experience is sure to suffice.