It is an example of what horror movies should be: fun, exhilarating, terrifying, humorous. Far too often, horror films nowadays rely on shock value, whether it be through excessive gore or obnoxious jump scares. While It may employ the occasional jump scare, the film instead tends to rely on atmosphere, tension and suspense to keep the audience on edge at all times. Director Andrés Muschietti is a devoted fan of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel of the same name, and his appreciation for the book shows. In his pitch to direct the movie, he came equipped with drawings and concepts for what his vision of the film was; two years later, Muschietti has directed a compelling film that does justice to the original work.
It features a talented cast of young actors and actresses, and their performances carry the film. With an R rating, the middle school characters are actually allowed to swear, which adds humor to the film as well as a level of believability. That’s one of the surprising points of this film: It’s hilarious. Comedy is woven throughout the film, and the jokes almost never misfire. The teenage actors give the film heart — an element many modern horror films seem to lack. The characters’ on-screen chemistry is reminiscent of that in The Goonies or Stranger Things (Finn Wolfhard, star of Stranger Things, plays one of the main juvenile characters in the film). Pennywise the clown, played by Bill Skarsgård, is just as terrifying and disturbing as Tim Curry’s original portrayal in the 1990 television miniseries.
It is a film about inner struggle; the main villain feeds off of the fear and dread each individual harbors inside. Whether it be an abusive father, a family tragedy or even a simple fear of clowns, It is about conquering and overcoming fear. Pennywise the Clown, or “It,” is the manifestation of each character’s worst fear; It is fear personified. The effects in the film are top of the line, whether it be Pennywise’s makeup, or a disfigured woman in a painting literally crawling off the canvas.
If there is one aspect of the film that was lacking a bit, it was the actual scares. The film is indeed terrifying and disturbing at times, but never truly blood-curdling. The film is dark, but nowhere near as threatening as other contemporary horror films. For every truly scary moment, there was another filled with laughs. At times it felt as if the audience was more afraid than the actual kids in the movie. They displayed an almost irrational bravery, considering what they were going up against. Despite these critiques, the cast delivered a believable and genuine performance.
It is a good horror film; a great one, in fact. But it isn’t just high-quality for a horror movie — it’s an extremely high quality movie in general. From the storytelling and cinematography to the extremely talented cast and special effects team, It doesn’t just deliver horror, but is a masterful piece of cinema.