IT – The refreshingly wicked horror film of the year!
Clowns are not my favourite thing in the world; they never have been. Clowns at birthday parties were the worst, and you’d normally find me in the corner of the room shrieking if any oversized feet started making their way towards me. The older I got, the more I couldn’t understand why they still existed, but I could never understand why coulrophobia was rampant in our culture. IT explains why.
IT, an adaption of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, was released as a miniseries in 1990 where Tim Curry played the role of Pennywise The Dancing Clown. Many, many, many people have traced their fear of clowns back to Pennywise’s unnerving character that is part humorous and enticing, and part complete and utter psycho. It’s still a mainstay in many people’s favourite horror outing, so the 2017 version has a lot to live up to. Bill Skarsgård manages to do this, and much more.
Setting the scene, the film follows the ‘Losers Club’, a self-professed clique of outcasts and outsider kids that are trying to enjoy a summer amidst many disappearances in the town with no explanation. The cast is built from some incredibly talented kid actors who capture perfectly the essence of the 80’s vibes, from the classic slogan T-shirts to the films advertised on billboards of the time in a very similar vein to Stranger Things. You can enjoy the scenery all you want, but soon, daunting and disturbing visions start cropping up; the kids’ darkest fears are projected into reality like images of headless corpses, burning bodies and, yes, clowns. Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise The Dancing Clown is unbelievably terrifying and makes you scan scenes constantly to spot his lurking presence. Rather than relying on jump scares and cheap shots, the unnerving mannerisms and wickedly disturbing smile of Pennywise is enough to realise why clowns are no longer seen as jolly and happy. The best/worst part is his eyes; both looking in different directions and truly convinces you that Pennywise is nothing less than fear itself (Skarsgård can do this naturally, no CGI required, making it so much more terrifying.).
The film is beautiful in setting up the 80s world that many of an older generation will remember, and many of a younger generation will wish they were part of (sans Pennywise). But it keeps the fun up with the relationships between the characters. They swear, talk about sex and make jokes that parents would be up in arms about 13 year-olds saying, but that’s how you interact with your mates at that age and the choice of keeping true to that opens the film up to audiences, rather than painting them with a censored paintbrush. You enjoy their interactions, and their struggles with crushes and bullying that is relevant even today. You spend the most time with the Losers Club, and you miss them when you’re not with them down to some pitch-perfect performances by all of the kids.
It’s by far not the scariest film you’ll ever see. Instead, the interwoven humour, horror and true-tolife interacts blend together to create a film about overcoming fears and how strong friendships can protect you from life’s downfalls. While you’ll definitely jump out of your skin in a few scenes (cover your eyes in the projector scene, you’ll thank me later), don’t be put off if you’re not a massive horror film. It’s refreshing to see how horror doesn’t have be solely based in fear, but light hearted moments and genuine story can terrify you as much as a haunted house. Best of all, there’s a second part to come.