Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack
Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Bill Skarsgård.
Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman. Based on the novel by Stephen King.
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Director of Photography by Chun-hoon Chung
Summer 2017 was great…up until the blockbusters started to slowly come to a halt in the final month. IT, the second theatrical Stephen King adaption of the year, closes out the summer with a fright and a good laugh or two. Andy Muschietti’s IT isn’t flawless but manages to evoke emotion and humor in what would otherwise be a monster film.
Andy Muschietti doesn’t direct a horror film. There are elements of horror littered throughout but IT comes across more like a coming-of-age film with a demonic monster in the center. That doesn’t take away from the sense of dread that is perpetually felt throughout the film with an unsettling score by Benjamin Wallfisch and meticulous camera movements. Seeing the manifestations of each Loser’s fear is unsettling, adding to the tension felt by the kids because of their fear of Pennywise.
Muschietti’s fault as a director is relying too much on jump scares to get a rise out of the audience. Instead of utilizing the sense of dread to its fullest potential, letting it permeate and linger waiting to attack like Pennywise patiently waits to attack, Muschietti deflates the tension with constant jump scares. For most of the film, it felt like a greatest hits compilation of scary events involving each character. In between scenes of exposition are a couple scenes of Pennywise torturing the Losers in various ways. While the scenes illicit fear, they felt too much like stacking scenes atop of one another.
IT’s script is strong and the film’s core solely relies on its characterization and the emotional comradery of its young cast. The emotional core of the film between Bill and his younger brother Georgie would not have worked if the chemistry between Jaeden Lieberher and Jackson Robert Scott felt false.
The entire Losers club are three-dimensional, each getting their own segment to shine, with the exception of Chosen Jacob’s Mike, whose inclusion feels tacked on with his character absent for most of the film. IT is surprisingly funny and heartfelt with quips and visual gags such as a running joke involving New Kids on the Block. IT’s sense of humor and chemistry among the young cast elevates the scares just a tad more.
Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal as the murderous clown Pennywise is chilling and made more unsettling with clever editing tricks to give him an otherworldly movement.
What IT lacks in subtlety it makes up for with dark elements and a sense of dread. Wallfisch’s score adds to Muschietti’s coming-of-age story, creating a sound that embodies childlike wonder and intense horror.