The feature film version of IT based on the novel by Stephen King immediately brings to mind another movie from his library: Stand By Me (1986). You have a group of young boys coming to grips with what it means to be men and trying to wrap their young minds around the struggles that adulting will entail. The camaraderie is heart-warming and their stories of growth stir the soul. The big difference is in IT you have killer clown named Pennywise killing children in the sewer. The choice of a clown as the villain I think is interesting, if only because they symbolize both sadness (Pierrot) and mirth (the circus) in our society. All I have to say is I will now forever give Bozo the Clown the side eye, because he could be down in the sewer chopping kids up for all I know.
IT centers on a small town in Maine, Stephen King’s home province and the backdrop for many of his novels. Maine makes a prime location for horror, because it has an image of being a wintery bucolic hinterland—quaint in some ways but ever capable of hiding secret horrors in the back woods. The movie focuses on Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) and his band of misfits. School is out for the summer, and they spend their time evading white trash bullies and fleeing the demonic clown—all while repeatedly telling us that it’s summertime, and they are supposed to be having fun.
IT succeeds in evoking the ’80s in a variety of ways. Between the tube socks and the movie marquees for 1989 cinema such as Nightmare on Elm Street 5, I thought IT painted a picture of the era without beating us over the head with nostalgia. The movie nailed it for me when we got a glimpse of a poster for Siouxsie and the Banshees on the wall of Beverly (Sophia Lillis). To underscore the point, tracks by The Cure and The Cult also found their way onto the IT soundtrack.
A cast of child actors sometimes requires patience, but this movie was saved by the character Richard Tozier (Finn Wolfhard). Richie brought some much needed comic relief, and the young actor displayed quite a talent for comedic timing while being hilariously gawky.
Verdict: Go see it.
Can I Take the Kids? Rated R for language, scary demonic clowns and violence.
Image via New Line Cinema.