Fear has returned to the pictures in the form of IT the remake of Stephen King’s horror masterpiece, the old clown is back to scare a new generation of unsuspecting viewers. IT manages to stay modern while keeping the spark of a more traditional horror, combining these two styles into something quite special. While IT isn’t free of problems it does bring something special to the genre and is one of the standout horrors from the last few years.
IT is based on the novel by Stephen King and is a remake of the 1990s series of the same name starring Tim Curry as Pennywise. The original was closely based on the books telling the story of a group of children who begin to experience their fears coming to life and then 27 years later as adults having to face their nightmares once again. The remake has decided to move in a different direction, while the original focused on two intertwining storylines the remake focuses on the children as they try to escape their fears. There are plans in the works for an IT sequel or a part 2, which will most likely focus on these characters as adults.
The story starts with the disappearance of Georgie a young boy who goes playing in the rain and meets a mysterious clown named Pennywise. Nearly a year down the road Georgie’s older brother Billy and his friends are disturbed by visions of their worse nightmares. After a few instances involving a band of unfavorable youths, a few new members join their gang and together discover that all of their nightmares are coming to life and appear to center around a creepy looking clown. With Billy’s determination to find his brother he convinces his friends to overcome their fears and help track down the mysterious Pennywise but fear might not be that easy to overcome.
The film’s success comes from its classic antagonist Pennywise the dancing clown. Pennywise is the personification of fear and is able to manipulate the fears of his victims, once overcome by their fear he proceeds to munch down on them. If being scared wasn’t terrifying enough. This clown makes the film what it is, with such a strong monster to overcome the danger is constant, the feeling of real terror can be seen on not just the characters but the audience as well. His most deadly aspect is his appearance, as seen in the early moments of the film children trust him. As Georgie meets him the boy is initially afraid that after Pennywise makes him laugh it becomes even tenser for the audience especially as Georgie reaches into the sewer. One of the more notable moments for this is when he pins down one of the children and playfully threatens to eat his hand, after tormenting the poor soul with his fears he adds on by upping the fear by being silly. This playfulness is one of the terrifying things about the character, bringing a whole new meaning to playing with your food.
Pennywise has changed a lot since his original incarnation, where he looks basically like a normal clown. His actions are what makes the character so terrifying and possibly more terrifying as he is just a regular clown until he fills you with fear. The new style looks great and very modern but is also rather obvious, from the moment we see him we know that this guy is a demon clown and must be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, the children don’t feel the same way. This decision shows off the film’s awareness of itself, the audience knows who Pennywise is before the film begins so there is no need to hide.
The heroes of the movie come in the form of the children, a group of friends who all realize their fears are the same thing and decide to take action. The children include; Billy (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) all of whom are fairly unknown actors, apart from Wolfhard who plays Mike in Stranger Things and Oleff who plays a young Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy. As the film progresses the children become the heart of the movie, in a film about fear it is important to bond with the characters. Throughout the film, we will experience the good times and the scared times through the eyes of these innocent children. They do a really good job at distinguishing each child from another and giving them all their own reasons for joining together and their own fears that keep them apart.
As seen in most horror movies everyone apart from our heroes is in deep denial that anything is wrong with their perfect town. This becomes a big issue within the film as we see adults ignore any situation of danger. The film describes it as a mass fear of the unknown, the town is paralyzed by the fear of losing people that they won’t help anyone in need or even acknowledge that there is a problem. This situation all leads back to Pennywise since the town beginnings hundreds of year ago he has taken children away every 27 years and it becomes clear why people are afraid to leave their homes. We see this manifest in a number of characters but is probably most noticeably in Eddie’s mother who is basically afraid of everything and fears that her son will kill himself if he steps outside the house. While this character is needed for Eddie to get over his personal fear, the mother feels so cartoonish that its hard to take the situation seriously. This is the same with many of the adult characters, they are very one dimensional being either, terrified, grieving, angry or violent without any other defining characteristics. Paralysed by these traits they leave their children completely exposed to the danger that lurks in the sewers.
IT takes influence from the original while combining it with the style of modern horror. In recent years horror films have meant something different, films like Insidious and the Conjuring have changed the way we experience fear, not by being scary but why making us jump, we are shocked into thinking we are scared and the film relies on the build up so much that the end usually falls flat. Traditionally horror films played upon the fears of their audiences, for example, Nosferatu/Dracula and the fear of the foreign invaders a theme that at the time audiences could relate too but these modern films rely on shocking you into fear rather than playing on the culture of the time. This is something IT manages to navigate around. Focusing more on the story elements of the film, only shocking you when you least expect it. This way it establishes fear through actually putting something in front of the characters, you feel your fear through theirs. This uses the traditional form of horror by playing on cultural fears but then intensifies them with the shock factor and brings the fear to life for the audience.
While IT thrills in the way of horror is also reveals itself, alerting the audience to the fact they are watching a film. This becomes clear in a scene during the children’s first attempt at confronting Pennywise. During this scene we see one of the children fall through the ceiling crashing onto the ground after trying to escape his fears. When we see him hit the ground he appears to be fine but after a few scenes, we return to see that is not the case. The boy’s arm has gone super floppy, the arm has gone from being completely fine to rubber in a couple of moments. Its almost as if between shots Pennywise sneaked in snapped his arm and went back into his hiding spot. This moment really detracts from the danger mostly because the arm looks very bulky and very prosthetic, especially when we see the ease at which the children snap his wrist back into place. This action appears to push his shoulder back into place fixing his whole arm. While the event and the actions around this are great this moment really stands out and breaks the illusion of the screen.The next moment comes in the form of the projector scene. In this scene the children are surrounded around the projector as it begins to act by itself, this escalates as we see Pennywise appear on the scene looking down at the children. While this scene is strong and full of terror they manage to push it a bit too far. In a moment meant to one-up, the original a giant version of Pennywise leap out of the scene and rush after the children, then as the door swings open he is gone. This scene was very interesting and creepy but becomes increasing gimmicky, by the end of the scene the original fear is gone and we are left with a simple jump scare. While the beginning works wonders for the film the ending feels too theatrical, leaving creepy behind and deciding to throw the creature in your face if this achieved more than a jump scare this scene would’ve landed successfully but sadly it did not.
The next moment comes in the form of the projector scene. In this scene the children are surrounded around the projector as it begins to act by itself, this escalates as we see Pennywise appear on the scene looking down at the children. While this scene is strong and full of terror they manage to push it a bit too far. In a moment meant to one-up the original a giant version of Pennywise leap out of the scene and rush after the children, then as the door swings open he is gone. This scene was very interesting and creepy but becomes increasing gimmicky, by the end of the scene the original fear is gone and we are left with a simple jump scare. While the beginning works wonders for the film the ending feels too theatrical, leaving creepy behind and deciding to throw the creature in your face if this achieved more than a jump scare this scene would’ve landed successfully but sadly it did not.
IT has been scaring people for decades and with a sequel on the horizon, it appears this will continue for a few more decades. A horror movie that uses all the best parts of horror from the last decade and shows us how to terrify an audience. While on some occasions this goes over the top as a film is delivers exactly what it needs too. If you are still on the fence about seeing IT the best comparison would be Stranger Things in its style of recapturing the feel of the time and understanding what audience love about the genre. If you appreciate a good horror film or just love the feeling of being scared then IT is the film for you.