Arts & Culture

Review: Want a balloon? ‘It’ storms the box office


Bill Skarsgård brought nightmares to life on the big screen as Stephen King’s monster, Pennywise the Dancing Clown. “It,” the much-hyped and most confusingly named horror movie of the year raked in a well-deserved $123.1 million during opening weekend.

Part of a recent trend of genuinely good horror movies, “It” has everything: incredible acting, a lavish set, a blood-chilling monster and a well-written narrative. For those of us who have been waiting for an adaption that does Stephen King justice, it satisfies.

Originally, “It” was a 1100-page tome that told the story of the seven “Losers” in a timeline that hopped back and forth between their childhood and adulthood encounters with It. Then, “It” was adapted into a 1990 miniseries — a lot of us will remember being frightened by Tim Curry’s Pennywise. But until this year, “It” lacked a modern adaption as scary as the book. This movie only follows the childhood story. Chapter Two, which has yet to be green lighted, would tell the story of the Losers’ return as adults.

“It” opens with the death of Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), who, while chasing a paper boat, is lured into the sewers by a clown (Bill Skarsgård). As more children disappear, his brother Bill (Jaden Lieberher) is wracked with grief and guilt. Bill becomes part of a group of kids who are dubbed “Losers.” They discover that something is not right in the town of Derry, that every 27 years, children disappear, and some outside force is causing the deaths.

The children band together to fight the monster they dub “It,” and they descend into It’s lair in the sewers. Here, Skarsård shines with the help of special effects that allow him to grow, shapeshift, fold into impossible positions and manipulate the environment around him. His eyes and facial expressions in particular are deeply disturbing.

You might not expect to be touched by a story about a shapeshifting entity that manifests as a clown and lives off of the fear of children, but there is something meaningful in the steadfastness of the kids. Though many of them have unbelievably difficult lives, their strength and courage allow them to fight an inhuman evil — and win — without the help of adults, as so many children in real life must. The child actors are skilled, and the chemistry between them is spookygood.

The only difference between book and movie that is a real cop-out is the treatment of Beverly Marsh, the abused girl who joins the Losers early in the movie. While Sophia Lillis plays a phenomenal and fiery Bev, the writers do her an injustice. She goes from being the fighter of the Losers, a crack shot with a sling, the one who disables It in the book, to a damsel in distress who has to be saved by the boys after It takes her down into the sewers in the movie.

While plot details can be quibbled over, the atmosphere of the movie is perfect — gripping but also absolutely terrifying. The differences from the book were mostly good calls that allowed the story to make the transition from book to screen without losing the essence of the narrative. It is modernized enough to keep the fear real, by, for example, cutting out the teenage werewolf incarnation of It, and thrill audiences.

Part two’s greenlight will hopefully mean even more terror. Hold on to your paper boats.

This article first appeared in the Friday, September 29, 2017, Edition of The Echo.