‘It’ has a spectacular opening scene. Little Georgie goes out to play in the rain with his new boat (made by his brother Bill) but finds himself encountering an eerie-looking clown in a sewer. Here, director Andy Muschietti (of ‘Mama’ fame) and writers Cary Fukunaga (writer/director of ‘Sin Nombre’ & ‘Beasts of No Nation’ and director of ‘Jane Eyre’) and Chase Palmer get right to the point and offer in a nutshell, what the movie is going to be all about.
In the town of Derry, a bunch of kids (that comprises of Bill, Richie, Eddie and Stan) who tag themselves the ‘Losers Club’ are persistently hazed by the school bullies and begin experiencing distinctive hallucinatory nightmares prominently featuring a shape- shifting clown by the name of Pennywise. They’re joined unexpectedly by Beverly, their classmate who’s labeled a ‘slut’, and by Mike, whom they happen to aid in fending off the bullies.
Director Muschietti succeeds to an extent in overturning the demon- horror-movie template that Hollywood seems to have embraced in recent times. The usual ‘fright followed by a short span of peace followed by fright’ format is done away with. Muschietti chooses to never let the viewer breathe easy, effectively blinding harrowing scares with humorous dialogue sprinkled heavily with F-bombs. Well, then the question arises for the viewer on whether these kids are worth backing. The answer is both Yes and No.
Bill’s yearning to find closure for his brother’s unnatural death is believable. Ben, a chubby loner who loves looking up history (and has a secret crush on Beverly) is also a neatly written character. Richie, the foul mouthed attention-seeker is half-written but his lines evoke the kind of reaction that they’re supposed to. Stan and Eddie too don’t really stand out but at least we know the quaint bits – Stan’s Jewish and scared of contamination too much, while Eddie is a hypochondriac.
Their individual encounters with the demon (that takes up the form of a headless boy, a living painting – an obvious nod to Muschietti’s earlier flick ‘Mama’, and a leper) are dexterously shot, performed well by the respective actors and backed by blood- curdling imagery (mostly using CGI). Fukunaga’s insightful writing backs Muschietti’s knack for formidable scares in a great way. It is indeed a wonder how the kids of the town manage to keep their heads up and be excited about summer when horrible things like disappearances and delusions are happening around them. The romantic angles between Bill-Beverly and Ben-Beverly are silly, adorable and childish as they’re supposed to be. Where they could’ve improved a bit was on the characterization of the parents. Most of them (whenever shown on screen) seemed to despise their kids’ presence, be sexually turned on, or appalled at their antics.
Even though the film runs for a 135 minutes, there aren’t a lot of instances that make the viewer question the decisions taken by the protagonists or ostensibly feel bored by the proceedings. A lot of the action unfolds at rapid pace, not giving the audience a chance for second thoughts. For lovers of the novel and the mini-series, there should be plenty to cherish. Skaarsgard plays Pennywise to near-perfection and his efforts are reinforced by masterful application of CGI. The climax too, is engineered adequately well to incite viewer interest in a sequel.
Verdict: Definitely one of the better horror films of the year!