Say hello to everyone’s favourite clown
September begins with a frightening flick, that might have saved 2017’s summer slump
By Thomas Bogda, Contributor
The most recent Stephen King adaptation to hit the silver screen is It, a supernatural horror film that is arguably one of the biggest pop-culture phenomenons since 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Although it might be an odd comparison, the two films bare a striking similarity in the way that has allowed both of them to capture the heart and minds of young and old.
Directed by relative newcomer, Andy Muschietti, and starring Bill Skarsgård, as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, It follows a group of kids as they start to notice a trend of disappearing kids in
their small town, and begin seeing their nightmares come to life.
The opening of the film is brilliant, something that anyone would be able to see if they peruse Youtube for an evening. For a story already soaked in popularity like this one, you can see the opening from a mile away, but the filmmakers take advantage of that and ultimately deliver a completely visceral experience that will shock any audience.
From that moment on, the standard is set, and they play with that for the entire film. Unless you’re Stanley Kubrick, it’s hard to one-up a Stephen King classic. The filmmakers here know that, so they don’t try to tell a better story. Instead, they enhance it just like any good film adaptation should, and they have succeeded.
The film is truly terrifying, even if clowns don’t frequently visit your nightmares. The atmosphere is haunting from the start, but it is brilliantly juxtaposed with plenty of humour sprinkled throughout. They can’t necessarily maintain a sense of dread through that humour, but they instill an expectation that anything can happen at any time. Luckily, it doesn’t adhere to modern horror film ground rules for the classic cookie-cutter scare. They’re good enough to scare you without the expected cliches. Still, in terms of scare-science, it most definitely plays off the modern horror build-and-jump tactic, but it doesn’t exhaust it. It’s effective and plays well with Pennywise’s unpredictability.
Speaking of the creepy clown himself, Skarsgård gives a real stand-out performance. It is a fully embodied personification of an absolutely insane being that shares quirks and subtleties that might remind you of Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as The Joker almost a decade ago. Skarsgård employs similar quirks that add to the character and really makes the most of his time on screen. By allowing Skarsgård to remain practically hidden from his young cast-mates for virtually all of filming, Muschietti was given the opportunity to create some horrific and genuine scares.
The child actors that make up the main cast also do a wonderful job capturing the fear not only caused by Pennywise, but by their own lives. First and foremost, the film is about a great cast of characters dealing with real problems and events that have shaped them through their childhood, and carry over to adulthood. The clever use of frightening allegories for some of the problems the characters are dealing with is very clever, and there is a clear and particular care on earning emotional weight and it pays off.
Adding that North America seems to be struck with clown fever (literally, with clowns on the streets last year), and the team behind It have a bonafide hit on their hands. It is already a classic tale that is made more engaging with lots of great elements, and it’s hard to complain. It does its job. It might be some people’s scariest movie of the year, while also being another favourite movie of the summer.
Just before the end credits, they throw up the title with a “Chapter One,” confirming that, indeed, It is one-half of the meal deal, which is an exciting prospect. Considering that Muschietti — who did a wonderful job, not to forget — has already confirmed that they’re under way on the second film with all the talent returning. It certainly was made with “Chapter Two” in mind, and considering they left out a big chunk of the book, let’s hope that the second installment can deliver the same way that the first film has.