The latest version of Stephen King’s IT has set the standard for horror films and leaves viewers fully satisfied.
Horror movies have become formulaic as of late. Get a group of people together, have a demon terrorize them, throw in a couple jumpscares to make the audience feel like they got something out of it. Rinse, repeat, make millions. IT is not a horror movie. “What are you talking about? Of course IT is a horror movie! It’s written by Stephen King after all,” some may say. Although it’s about a killer clown attacking children, I would not call it a horror movie. IT is THE horror movie. The movie that all horror movies aspire to be.
IT is about a group of middle schoolers in the fictional town of Derry. They call themselves “the Losers’ Club.” The movie follows the Losers’ Club through their battle with the evil entity known as IT. IT, played by Bill Skarsgard, is an interdimensional being that can tell what someone’s biggest fear is, embody it, then feast off their fear, thus killing the person. Throughout the story, IT terrorizes the children by taking on many forms, such as ‘Pennywise the dancing clown,’ a leper, a child with its head blown off, and other unspeakable things.
The first genius of the movie is not only the monster itself but also the portrayal by Bill Skarsgard. The monster has a main persona known as ‘Pennywise the Dancing Clown.’ Pennywise is a normal looking clown, other than the fact that he stands around 7 feet. Yet there is a strangely unhuman aura around him. This is depicted well in the very first encounter with the clown, where IT lures Georgy into the sewer drain. The whole scene, saliva drips from IT’s mouth, and IT does nothing. IT doesn’t try to wipe it away or lick it off. IT just lets it dribble. Along with that, ITs eyes are pointing in two different directions at once, one at Georgy and the other at the camera, and by proxy, us. What really makes this illusion work is that Bill Skarsgard physically achieved this feat without digital effects. IT really has ITs eyes on both you and Georgy, subconsciously and symbolically putting you in the same position as Georgy: the prey. These subtle, disturbing details continue throughout the film, adding an extra layer of refined horror onto the already terrifying monster of IT.
Archetypes can be a dreadful thing if done poorly, but in IT the archetypes serve as an entrance into relating with the characters.
The real genius of the story, in my eyes, is the characters that comprise the Losers’ Club. Each character falls into an archetype of middle school kids: the chubby one, the mouthy one, the leader, so on and so forth. Archetypes can be a dreadful thing if done poorly, but in IT the archetypes serve as an entrance into relating with the characters. You form an immediate bond to at least one of the characters because you were the leader or the fat kid while you were in middle school. However, IT doesn’t stop with archetypes. Each character gets just the right amount of depth. Each kid gets a ‘biggest fear’ and a reason for having it, and each kid overcomes that fear in the end.
Let’s take my personal favorite, Eddie, for example. His biggest fear is sickness. As a result, IT takes the form of a leper to torment him. We find out that his fear sprouts because of his mother’s gross overprotection of him. Throughout the film, Eddie is seen taking numerous pills. These pills are later revealed to be placebos, or pills with no effect, that his mother has been tricking him into taking. Eddie discovers the pills are fake, throws them away, and runs away from home to help his friends confront IT for the last time. IT then tries to taunt Eddie with the leper again, but Eddie goes berserk and attacks IT. Eddie has overcome his fear. All the kids in the Losers’ Club have a moment like this, and it really allows you to develop a bond with the characters. To see them struggle against their inner demons and a literal demon clown at the same time is truly entertaining, and to see them overcome come both in the end leaves you with a sense of true satisfaction and closure. Nothing that you’d be getting from Annabelle or the fourth Purge movie.
IT transcends the genera of modern horror. IT is story and character driven, and it lets the movie monster take the backseat to the symbolism. If you have any free time soon around 9:30 at night and five dollars to spare, I would highly suggest seeing IT at the Elks. Although once you do, be prepared to stay at least 10 feet away from any sewer drains for the following week.