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This is IT, the horror triumph of the year

graphic by Beau Cameron

by Nicholas Stephan, Reporter

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The 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s classic blood-soaked thriller novel It hit theaters on September 8th, its opening day box office record, devouring even Deadpool’s for an R-rated movie.

As a young child, I was always fascinated by book’s like King’s. It follows seven kids in the Losers Club as they try and thwart an evil clown-shaped entity within the small town of Derry, Maine.

In spite of being a fantastic film, it isn’t perfect, which is understandable. It also isn’t often a film like this has so much hype behind it. Many fans and casuals alike suspect the numerous real life clown sightings earlier this year were to promote the upcoming film. We have built such an expectation that it would be next to impossible to beat. However, the film as a whole was outstanding, ranking ‘certified fresh’ on Rotten Tomatoes with a solid 85%.

One word. Pennywise. Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal as Pennywise the Dancing Clown was more than expected, and freakishly terrifying. From all the tiny quirky nuances that he had, such as the wandering eye that Skarsgård improvised, you’d have to see for yourself. Just the way he uses his vocal tones to body language. It was a fantastic, layered performance, and arguably award worthy, that will definitely make some lose sleep once they see this film, and will leave others wanting more at the same time. Not many horror villains can do that, but this one did.

An additional aspect of the film that aids ‘It’ in holding its audience in its grip of fear is the phenomenal attention to detail. Andrés Muschietti, the film’s director, has a real eye for specific elements. During the Losers Club’s first visit to the old well house at 28 Neibolt Street, three of the boys, Bill, Eddie, and Richie, get separated, and the latter finds himself locked in a room and surrounded by clown dolls. Just to the left of the spot where Pennywise pops out, stands a figure that may look familiar to those who’ve seen the original miniseries, a doll resembling the likes of the first Pennywise as portrayed by Tim Curry.

This factor must have been challenging, because Muschietti essentially had to make a movie for fans of King as well as a movie that casual horror fans, who know next to nothing about the novel, can enjoy as well. He walked this line, adding in many references to King’s other works that would please any fan. Those who’ve read King’s 1983 novel Christine may have given a silent cheer in theaters when they noticed Eddie wearing a shirt sporting the titular Plymouth Fury.

Another particular facet the film has going for it is the humor. This movie will have you cracking up several times throughout, which is one feature that actually draws comparison to another horror film, ‘Gremlins’, as both movies will have you cackling with delight one moment and cowering in fear the next. (Fun fact: both posters for Gremlins and Beetlejuice can be seen on one of the children’s walls during the film).

The humor is definitely one of the things that will make this flick memorable for you, even years from now. It actually shows that horror is not some monolithic genre to be taken lightly and simply and with no depth. (Something that a lot of people who aren’t into films like this think). You can still infuse comedy into horror, as the two go hand in hand. It certainly happened for this movie. Most of the laughs you’ll get are from the occasional slip of the tongue from the Losers Club. One of the main reason for the R-rating is the profanity, but it was done just so well in such an excellent and crafty way.

This film does not hold back. To say this bigscreen adaptation is nothing like the Tommy Lee Wallace miniseries from 1990, is not hyperbole. Andrés Muschietti was not messing around with his film version of the 1986 classic book. If you aren’t cool with seeing children harmed, or worse, this may not be the summer blockbuster for you. ‘It’ is a very bloody and graphic movie, which is a ballsy move that paid off in the end. It wasn’t mindless gore, however. Everything was well placed and fit together nicely.

Nevertheless, there is something to be said about the film’s CGI. There are times where scenes that need an extra dose of terrifying, hallucinatory, and ludicrous nightmare imagery will overuse this computer generated technique. One example of how the CGI was used effectively was the woman in the painting scene and Pennywise’s distorted deformities. The style in which the extraterrestrial clown acts in times of distress and/or enjoyment is very reminiscent to the mad illustrations by Japanese writer and illustrator Atsushi Ōkubo, in his series Soul Eater. Not to say it was in any way inspired by it, but rather just a fun observation. The CGI is relatively excused, however, due to the film hot having that big of a budget to begin with, at only 35 million.

Lastly, it’s all about the kids. Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, and Wyatt Oleff all gave professional presentations as the main kids who compose the Losers Club in the movie. Try and picture what you’d get by mixing the ‘Goonies’, ‘Stranger Things’, and ‘Stand by Me’ together. You essentially get this movie. The kids have absolutely amazing chemistry, and all are incredibly well acted. They were the biggest thing about this movie. Perhaps the film could’ve even been a bit longer to really flesh out the development of all the kids more extensively. Things will always get felt out when you try and fit an entire 1000 page smallprint book into a movie, or even two movies for that matter.

The supporting cast, however, is where the film begins to buckle. Not to say is was badly acted, far from it in fact. All the parent characters, extra adults and kids were performed well and fit within the story, but a lot of them seemed flat in the development department. Aforementioned, a longer movie could’ve helped to remedy this. A larger backstory for some of the supporting cast, such as the Bowers Gang, would have greatly benefited the movie. For the most part, the supporting cast felt more like a formality rather than well developed characters.

En masse, this film wants to make you turn your brain off. There never seems to be any real fluidity, which does actually work in this film’s favor. A cocktail of mishaps and unfortunate events, perfectly blended with the iconic style of King, and some excellent jumpscares, makes for a great popcorn flick. It felt a bit watered down at times, but makes up for it in incredible fast-paced events and being all around interesting.

Just in time for Halloween 2017, his film is a marvel for horror, even while adapting only half of King’s original story. In an age where most modern films in the genre are lackluster at best, It delivers an astonishing, thrilling, and well-acted production, one which any fan of horror, or just someone in the need to see a good flick, will be unable to escape.  

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About the Writer
Nicholas Stephan, Reporter

Nicholas 'Nick' Stephan (@nick_stephanCC) a member of the class of 2018. Growing up in the Fredrick area, he traveled Europe for nearly five years; visiting...

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This is IT, the horror triumph of the year