A killer clown hunting down a group of kids doesn’t sound like an ideal film premise, but Director Andres Muschietti successfully delivers suspense and humor in “It,” a breath of fresh air in the tired horror movie genre.
Set in the summer of 1989, “It” follows a group of pre-teens investigating a string of child murders in Derry, Maine, starting with the disappearance of 7-year-old Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott).
As the kids delve into their hometown’s mysteries, they cross paths with an ancient shape shifting evil who torments them in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard). Determined to save their town from Pennywise, the children prepare for the battle of their lives.
Despite its labelling as a horror film, “It” is best described as creepy, rather than genuinely scary. Muschietti maintains a suspenseful atmosphere throughout, but fails to capitalize on scares, instead using sporadic pop-outs to jolt audiences.
Aside from two standout moments, the film is largely tense and unsettling rather than scary. Viewers looking for a terror-fest are likely to be disappointed.
Although it fails to scare, “It” surely will disturb viewers. The film’s source material is incredibly dark, featuring violence against children and abuse, and the filmmakers rarely shy away from the novel’s shocking material.
Muschietti shows no restraint when it comes to Pennywise’s brutality, and the stakes feel real. This approach results in one of the boldest Hollywood blockbusters in years, as “It” is a genuine labor of love compared to the recent flock of studio horror films. In today’s age of pre-planned mega-franchises, “It” is a rare filmmaking feat.
Considering the film’s dark subject matter, “It” is far funnier than expected. The foul-mouthed cast serves as comic relief, specifically the crude Richie (Finn Wolfhard). The film’s sense of humor is a double-edged sword, as the moments of levity are effective and often hilarious but detract from the suspenseful tone throughout.
The pre-teen cast is the highlight of the film, and the actors’ chemistry is the glue that holds the entire film together. They behave like real teenagers, cussing, fighting and fiercely independent, rather than the watered-down Disney Channel depictions audiences to which audiences have become accustomed.
Jaeden Lieberher knocks it out of the park as protagonist Bill Denbrough, delivering a nuanced performance of Georgie’s grieving, stuttering older brother.
Although failing to deliver scares, “It” is one of the most unique films to come out of the Hollywood studio system in years. The strange premise, engrossing cast and ambitious filmmaking makes “It” an absolute must see for any horror fan.