They say that it’s not the clown that we conquer, but ourselves. Based off an award-winning novel by Stephen King, the film adaptation IT submerges its viewers in a cyclone of emotion, tear-jerking moments, comic relief, and of course, chilling horror. On a fall day, I entered the theater with no idea of what I was in for (other than plenty of frames of a smiling clown).
IT begins on a rainy day when our protagonist, a stammering boy named Bill, makes a paper boat for his little brother, Georgie, to play with in the rainy roads. Georgie is following the boat down the road when it falls in a storm drain, and a smiling clown, Pennywise, invites him down with Georgie’s boat in hand. Unfortunately for Georgie, his ability to refuse the clown’s offer, and his arm, were torn right from him, and Georgie was never seen above-ground again.
In the months following the disappearance, strange things began occurring to a select few of the town’s youth. With every appearance of Pennywise, an incarnation of the worst fear of the kid’s that he appeared before would accompany him, as well as a red balloon. For example, Stanley, a Jewish boy rehearsing in his family’s prayer room, was confronted by the clown as well as a full-fledged incarnate version of a daunting portrait in the room. Eddie, a sheltered and allegedly sick boy, saw the clown at an abandoned house, followed by a grotesquely ill monster. And Bill saw the clown who took his brother in his flooded basement followed by Georgie himself. Accompanied by a few more town kids all with their own sightings and fears incarnate, the group decides to try and search the town’s drainage system to find Georgie – and defeat this fear-mongering clown.
The main group of neighborhood kids have diverse personalities, and what viewers can notice immediately from the dynamic is the unsolicited-but-enjoyable comic relief provided by the dirty-mouthed Ritchie, played by Finn Wolfhard. In scenes of extensive importance, heavy emotion, and fight-or-flight situations, Ritchie finds a way to crack a dirty joke, and he continues this up until the very climax of the film. The issues of the group extend to deeper reaches, however, with Beverly having the history of her abuse contributing to the clown’s fear it brings along, and Mike’s trauma of his parents dying in a fire. However, throughout the movie they learn through intense experiences with the clown to face their fears and bring them into light, and that’s something I never thought I could come to expect from a horror film: lesson learning.
Some parts of IT could seem to get a bit excessive, though. Personally I enjoyed Ritchie’s consistent comic relief, but for others in the theater it would appear that they were getting bored of it, or just flat-out annoyed. Also, some of Pennywise’s appearance scenes were relatively lengthy, and after around the one-minute mark the fear that the scenes were trying to convey ran a bit stale. And while doing my best to not spoil it, there is a sort of “love triangle” within the group that does not pan out like most viewers would have liked for it to. But these cons fortunately do not affect the movie too negatively, as it is completely overshadowed by the rest of the eye-opening parts of the film.
IT was a movie I went to (never having read Stephen King’s book) not even considering the possibility of a horror movie being able to trigger your tear wells and touch your heart. I thought it was just going to be about a scary clown, as I am sure many new viewers did. But I was pleasantly disproved by the projected values of friendship, doing things for loved ones, conquering fears, and hard-pressing issues in the world, physical and mental. Pennywise was “real enough for Georgie,” but was it real enough for me? Yes IT was.