Sunday, April 11, 2021

IT: A Horror Story That Doesn’t Clown Around




Stephen King is one of the few writers who can say he’s had a film produced for nearly every piece of fiction he’s written. Whether you love or hate his stories, there’s no denying the man has a talent for crafting narratives that can capture an avid readers attention. King’s most recent film to hit theaters, simply titled “IT”, is widely considered to be one of his most infamous and disturbing tales in his collection. The only question now, however, does it translate well to the big screen like King’s other notable films including “The Shining,” “Dead Zone,” and “The Green Mile”?

“IT” takes place in the town of Derry, Maine during the 1980s. The story follows seven children, all of whom share similar circumstances that bring them together. They are terrorized by bullies, subjected to poor parenting, and all the while, being haunted by an unknown entity they refer to as “It”, or Pennywise, as it calls itself. Pennywise is a disturbing figure that comes to the children in the form of a clown, and is capable of showing them their greatest fear. The seven friends soon learn that Pennywise has not only been around for decades, but is responsible for the string of disappearances throughout the town, one of them being the little brother of one of the main characters. Knowing that they are on their own, the seven children band together to find where Pennywise is hiding, and stop its reign of terror once and for all, before it gets them first.



If it feels like I glossed over characters names, don’t think that means the characters are forgettable; far from it. Because “IT” does something most horror films utterly fail at, which is tell a compelling story that possesses well-toned horror and mystery, with likable characters. Even if you can’t recall their names, you’ll remember these characters through their actions, lines, and appearances. The seven child actors do an outstanding job. You believe the fear on their faces whenever It comes to terrorize them. Then again, who wouldn’t be scared working on a frightening set with an adult acting like a creepy killer clown?

Speaking of the creepy clown, if you’re someone who has coulrophobia (fear of clowns), then this film will be difficult for you to sit through. Because “IT” right from the beginning lets the audience know that the main monster, Pennywise, is a cynical psychopath that loves to see children hurt, beaten, and afraid. The horror in this story is unlike how a typical scary film plays out. In the usual horror movie, the monster stalks one character, some tense moments happen, maybe a scare or two, then BAM, monster kills character, that’s it. Cycle, rinse, repeat until the main character stops said monster. That’s not the case here; Pennywise is not a mindless animal, it’s a monster with a modus operandi. Even if it doesn’t kill a character, Pennywise is satisfied outright torturing his victims with terrifying imagery. And I won’t lie, there were a number of scenes in “IT” that left me at a loss for words.

Normally I don’t comment on the title, but I feel like the name “IT” needs addressing. Odd as it sounds, the title is so simplistic that it’s almost ingenious. Think of every disturbing film out there that features a monster. Now, take away whatever name it was given and simply refer to the monster as “It.” The two-letter word perfectly captures the essence of what a monster truly is. It doesn’t matter what its name is, its race, or its gender, a monster is simply an IT. And that’s what Pennywise is; an eldritch deity that embodies all monsters. “It” is the werewolf, the ghost, the mummy, the slasher, the alien, whatever monster you fear, it is an “It” that Pennywise will be. It’s the perfect monster and villain.

As for fans of the book, if you’re expecting this film to follow the novel to a T, you may be a tad disappointed. Slight spoiler for the viewers; while the 1,000-page novel follows the characters as kids, and then later as adults, the 2017 movie only focuses on the kids’ part of the story. Which may be for the better, given that Stephen King’s novel version has more than a few scenarios too controversial, and odd, for the big screen. The movie only takes liberties when it needs to, without ruining the overall narrative and central themes, which suits the film fine. And by the end, you not only care for these characters, you’re rooting for them to come out on top, and make the monster pay for what it has done.

“IT” is rated R for horror, language, violence, and bloody imagery. If the thought of children being attacked, maimed, while mentally and physically tortured sounds too difficult to swallow, then I would advise viewers to avoid this film. However, if you’re a Stephen King fan, or someone looking for a horror movie with an interesting story, likable characters, and can tolerate heavy scenes of horror, then “IT” will leave you more than satisfied. Which is why the final score for “IT” is an 8.5 out of 10.

Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.

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