ABOUT THE WRITER: Harry Sabulis is film, music, theatre and media crazed writer with a passion for all things artsy. A certified nerd and aspiring screenwriter, Harry loves storytelling in all of its forms. You can read some of his film reviews on his blog, Kill The Critic.
In what has been a lackluster year for horror films so far, Andrés Muschietti’s new feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s It, is nothing short of a modern horror masterpiece.
One of the smartest and most chilling horror films in recent memory, It follows the iconic Stephen King story of a shape-shifting killer clown who prays on young children in the small town of Derry, Main (in case your fear of clowns wasn’t bad enough). While horror may not be for everyone, the film’s graphic nature and explicit themes hide a much deeper message: one of growing up, facing our fears and becoming stronger in the face of overwhelming odds.
However, the strength in this adaptation of It is the combination of elements – both within and outside of horror – that made the film such an emotional rollercoaster. With the inclusion of elements of psychological and body horror as well as gore and – worst of all – clowns, the levity provided by the talented young cast was a much-welcomed relief. For every moment of sheer terror, there was a hilarious joke or light-hearted moment sure to engage even the most terrified audience member.
But make no mistake – this film is terrifying.
Bill Skarsgård delivers a jaw-dropping performance as the film’s eponymous villain, better known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. While Tim Curry set the standard for terrifying clowns in the 1990 It miniseries, the vast advancements in visual effects in the last 27 years have been put to good use. Through the use of VFX, the horror of Pennywise is now more vivid than your worst nightmares, but that’s not all.
The films eerie soundtrack, coupled with an array of nightmare visuals, takes the viewer on a journey through their own worst fears. Despite being Muschietti’s second feature film to date, the camera work echoes that of an experienced filmmaker, with the empty spaces and crooked framing of shots being almost as scary as the film’s villain.
While Pennywise remains one of fictions scariest villains, it can only be expected of a Stephen King story that there is more at work than just a creepy clown. While the film is scattered with moments of laughter and compassion, there is an equal balance of genuine drama. The lives of each of the seven members of ‘The Losers Club’ are explored in depth, looking into their tragic family situations and exploring many of the darker themes of childhood, as the children of Derry fight evil in all of its forms.
Despite balancing many complicated themes with multiple characters, good jokes and genuine fright, nothing in this new adaptation of It feels at all out of place. As the first chapter in a planned duology of films (echoing King’s original novel and the 1990 miniseries), there is still much more in store for The Loser’s Club – as we surely haven’t seen the last of It.
As well as being an at time nostalgic call-back to Stephen King’s 1986 novel, 2017’s It is sure to float up to the top of the list of this generation’s great horror films – and who knows: maybe you’ll float too.