Movie Review | It
Summary: In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town. (IMDb)
Or to give the film its full title revealed at the end of the film – and obvious to anyone who knows anything about the book even if they haven't read it – It: Chapter One. The reason for this? This film centres entirely on a group of kids and the sequel will deal with what happens to them as adults.
Spoiler? Maybe. Although it doesn’t give away which kids survive, as we see more than one killed, many others go missing, and even those who survive are clearly traumatised and well on their way to becoming incredibly dysfunctional adults.
Astonishingly for a film which sees children murdered by a monstrous clown, there were many people claiming that It isn’t a horror film. Yes, a film in which the premise is a demonic clown terrorising and killing children in the town of Derry, Maine, in the US north-west is apparently not a horror.
What the hell these people think actually constitutes a horror film is beyond me, and most likely even more disturbing than the premise of this film. I would say that It does get less scary as it goes on, but that doesn’t stop it being a horror film.
The reason that Pennywise the demon clown becomes less frightening an antagonist isn’t really plot-based, as the group of children struggle to fight back against it, but rather that it spends so much time on-screen that it loses some of its mystique and definitely the surprise factor.
By the end, the film is relying more on gruesome imagery rather than scares, but it didn’t stop the nagging feeling that the shape-shifting title creature started to feel more like a threat Doctor Strange should be dealing with rather than the main villain of a horror movie.
Part of this is due to the effects work and how the creature shape-shifts on-screen so much in the final third. For the first two acts, it simply appears in different forms to terrify the children and feels far more like a pervasive evil force throughout the town.
This may sound like heavy criticism, but the first two thirds of the film are so good that a small slide in scare value towards the end isn’t enough to really diminish the experience. The story does jump around quite a bit, but there are so many characters and events to cover, that the film doesn’t really have any choice but to race through them.
That could have been a fatal flaw if it wasn’t for the amazing group of child actors in this film, all of whom give fantastic performances that distinguish each of them from each other to stop them blending together, even with the little character time afforded to each of them.
That said, the standout is the sole girl in the Losers’ Club - as they call themselves - Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh. She gives an outrageously good performance for someone so young and has the potential to be a real star in the future. It’s almost a shame that the kids will play less of a role in the sequel as Lillis definitely deserves more time to shine.
The other top performer is Bill Skarsgård as the eponymous It in the form of Pennywise the dancing clown. From the very beginning, where he seems to struggle with human speech just enough to hint at his true nature from the very beginning, his performance is filled with fantastic tics and quirks, both physical and verbal, that serve to make Pennywise a truly memorable antagonist.
It struggles to pack everything into the 135-minute run time, but it doesn’t leave you feeling bored as a result. There is always something happening on-screen to keep your attention, even if it can’t quite maintain the scares until the very end.