“IT” had been stuck in development since 2009. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
“IT” has so much riding against it. It is a film adaptation of a popular novel written by Stephen King; in his novels, typically the main cast is comprised entirely of child actors. In short, it is unbelievable that “IT” was this good.
In the small town of Derry, Maine, a group of seven kids set out to defeat the evil that lurks beneath their town, which has plagued the community on and off again for the past 27 years.
While many movies suffer from being longer than they need to be due to unneeded material getting stuffed in, “IT” suffers due to being too short, even though it is two hours long. While most of the children are developed enough so that the audience can understand their characters and why they are friends with each other, Ben’s (Jeremy Ray Taylor) reason for being welcomed into the group and Mike’s (Chosen Jacobs) character are unfortunately underwritten.
Those issues are easy to overlook, however, thanks to the performance of the child actors. There are a few moments where it seems like they might be unsure about how to act in a scene, but for the most part their acting is believable. They know how to emote without being awkward about it, they manage to do dramatic scenes well and they have wonderful chemistry which makes it easy to believe that they are friends, regardless of the underdevelopment of a few characters.
Humor and terror make up most of the two hour runtime, and not only do both tones work, they end up complimenting each other surprisingly well. A lot of the humor comes from the banter between the young friends, but the way it is utilized and the personalities that the characters are given makes the humor work in a way that it doesn’t dissolve any of the suspense or horror that was in a scene, even if the humor comes in right in the middle of a dramatic or scary moment.
The way that the horror is executed shows that Andy Muschietti he knows how to properly scare an audience intelligently. The atmosphere of the scenes is built up superbly and the frightening images that the children are seeing make sense for their characters, so it is scary for the audience because they are scared for the characters. There are jump scares in a few places, but they work because they act only to elevate the terror in the scene, not to act as a payoff.
The child actors all do a good job in their parts, but a special mention must be given to Bill Skarsgård for his portrayal of Pennywise the Clown. Skarsgård’s role was one that could easily have gone wrong due to overacting or coming off as comical, but he found the right measure of fearsomeness to make the character of Pennywise a truly unsettling on-screen figure.
“IT” is the kind of movie that all film incarnations of novels should strive to be like. It does justice to the source material for fans of the novel while acting as a good movie for those unfamiliar with the book.
Final grade: A-