This film is a category 5 on the cinematic hurricane scale.
Regardless of your feelings about horror movies, some are so powerful that they simply have to be seen. Director Andy Muschietti’s It is one of them.
It begins as you watch an 8-year-old boy chase a paper boat as it raced down a rain-filled city curb. After it disappears into a sewer, he is stunned as he watches a sinister clown holding it. What happens to him is as shocking as any scene you have ever witnessed in a horror film.
From that moment on I was once again glad that I am afflicted with amblyopia in my left eye. I only see clearly out of one eye, and at one time I viewed it as a curse until I discovered its value in a movie like It. More to the point, I simply cover my right eye and watch the movie unfold so that I can avoid shocking scenes that would otherwise scare me to death.
And that was the case with It. Taking place in Derry, Maine, in 1988, it quickly becomes apparent that a killer clown known as Pennywise emerges every 27 years with a goal of killing as many children as possible. Here, seven kids overcome their fear and band together to fight this evil.
Leading the group is Bill, a teenage boy played by Jaeden Lieberher, who you previously saw in Midnight Special (2016) and Saint Vincent (2014). Inflicted with a speech impediment, he has been left in agony given that it was his brother who previously disappeared into the sewer.
All of the other kids are wonderfully played by a cast that includes the cute and pudgy Jeremy Ray Taylor and Sofphia Lillis, a young girl who fights an incestuous father at home. It is also worth mentioning the contributions of Finn Wolfhard (Richie), Jack Grazer (Eddie), Wyatt Oleff (Stanley) and Chosen Jacobs (Mike), all of whom have memorable moments in their pursuit of a devious clown that may devour them.
What adds to our little band’s struggle is that they are haunted by an older gang of teenagers who try to abuse them at every turn. The leader is played by Nicholas Hamilton, a kid who you being to think has a picture of Pennywise on his bedroom wall. As nasty as Mr. Hamilton is in his role as Henry Bowers, it is worth remembering his strong performance in last year’s Captain Fantastic, a film where Vigo Mortensen was nominated for an Oscar.
What makes this film so captivating is that it also involves some frequent funny moments in our kids’ relationship. As they ride their bikes to the edge of Hell, you are left frequently laughing while you simultaneously hold your breath.
But let’s face it, this film belongs to the Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård as he brings a monster to life. Both ruthless and sardonic, he makes Pennywise become one of the great villains in the history of film. He may have a clown’s face, but his goal is to devour as many children as possible.
In the end, the kids are left wondering if Pennywise died or if he will resurface in the future. They hold hands after cutting their palms and pledge to come back if they are required to face this horrible clown again. Given that the film ends with the caption “Chapter 1″, Pennywise is likely to have the same enduring quality as a cicada.