Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis
Director: Andy Muschietti
Running Time: 135 mins
It is an American film about a group of kids who find themselves terrorised and hunted by a sinister clown over the course of the summer of 1989.
This is a very unsettling and consistently tense thriller, featuring an incredibly disturbing villain combined with an entertaining and engaging summer-vacation atmosphere throughout. In general, It is a very entertaining movie, and although it’s definitely not as scary as it thinks it is, nor does it manage to provide a fully coherent plot over the course of its slightly overlong 135 minutes, the tension and extreme horror are definitely enough to keep you engrossed from start to finish.
But let’s start off with the one thing that really defines this movie: the clown. Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise, an absolutely terrifying-looking clown who hunts down children all over the city of Derry. Although I can’t say that It as a whole movie is exactly terrifying, Pennywise the Clown is a very, very unsettling presence whenever he appears on screen.
Skarsgård plays the role brilliantly, combining all of our preconceived notions about scary clowns, like the distinctly buffoonish voice, with incredibly bizarre and unsettling horror tropes, giving Pennywise’s voice a deeper and almost mechanical tinge to increase his air of threat, all the while putting out a generally dark and unpredictable vibe from the character, leaving you completely unaware of what he’s going to do at any moment, as he ominously stands in the near distance staring at our heroes.
So, if you’re scared of clowns, It won’t do anything to rectify that fear, but in that, it provides a very unsettling and often even downright disturbing villain in Pennywise, brilliantly played by Bill Skarsgård throughout.
Moving on from the clown, however, It is also a very entertaining movie because it harkens back to a classic blockbuster genre that we don’t get to see all that much anymore. Much like how Super 8 mimicked 80s summer movies, It feels like a cross between all sorts of Steven Spielberg blockbusters and Stand By Me, as we see a group of kids thrust into an enormous situation in the midst of the bliss of their summer vacation.
That side of the story makes the film a lot of fun to watch, as alongside its unsettling horror story, you get a both delightful summer-vacation style movie as well as an intriguing coming-of-age story, as we see a group of kids face up to a terrifying situation and grow significantly in strength and maturity over the course of the movie, giving the story a little more depth than simply being a horror movie.
When it comes to the horror, the film isn’t quite perfect. On the one hand, Pennywise is a very unnerving villain and definitely fits the bill of a scary clown, the film’s remarkably dark and violent horror adds real threat to every moment, and the tension that runs from start to finish makes it a riveting and often even nail-biting watch.
On the other, It isn’t quite as scary and disturbing and is it clearly aims to be. Yes, it’s tense and unnerving, but I never felt like hiding behind the sofa, nor did any of the jump-scares really make me jump. Of course, the film works well regardless thanks to its strong story and good performances, but I felt a little disappointed that I wasn’t more disturbed or just terrified by the movie.
Finally, I felt that the film just went on a little too long. Yes, it’s entertaining and tense throughout, but it’s a film that really doesn’t merit a 135 minute runtime, as its story doesn’t always have the right amount of depth or thrills to keep you on the edge of your seat right the way through.
On the whole, I enjoyed It a lot. It’s not quite as terrifying or endlessly disturbing as it could have been, but thanks to strong directing, an excellent central performance, and a story that combines horror with good drama, it’s a tense and entertaining watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6.