IT: Chapter One
Andy Muschietti's IT: Chapter One is a frightening new take on the cult classic Stephen King novel. IT: Chapter One is the accumulation of atmosphere, patience and performances that all total up for one of the most memorable horror movies in recent memory.
Mama director Andy Muschietti transcends mediocrity with IT: Chapter One, his adaptation of the cult classic Stephen King novel. With IT, Muschietti shows off his horror game proper, directing scares through patient story building that allows audiences to connect with the film’s characters and share equal fear of the terrifying clown known as Pennywise, played with meticulous skill by the unrecognizable Bill Skarsgård.
The small town of Derry, Maine seems like just that; your typical small-town, filled with small-town things, such as a meat shop, a library, a school and a rag-tag bunch of kids that like to cruise around on their bicycles and pass the creepy old house that homeless people probably live in. It also has a quarry and a modern day sewer system that looks creepy, but is probably harmless.
Or maybe not. Because Derry, Maine happens to have a higher-than-average missing persons problem, especially with children. Did I mention the town’s weirdly mysterious past? Anyways, the kids of Derry start to notice this as their friends go missing one by one.
Particularly, young Georgie, who is the brother of Bill Denborough (Jaeden Lieberher). Bill and his friends form the collective group of kids known as The Losers Club and together they do just about everything, including running from bullies and attempting to discover the secrets of Derry. Their club gets slightly bigger as drifter Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) joins the group, in addition to newcomer to town Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and a homeschooled child by the name of Mike (Chosen Jacobs).
Together, the kids slowly unravel Derry’s creepy past and while doing so discover the terrifying clown known as Pennywise, or as the titular IT. See, IT feeds on the children’s fears and can take the shape or form of just about anyone or anything.
The rest of IT: Chapter One smartly unfolds as a slow-burn horror film that’s drenched in atmosphere and character build-up. Sure, there are jump scares and some questionable writing decisions, but IT is mostly an achievement in modern day horror, because of its attention to detail.
I had my doubts when director Andy Muschietti stepped in to pick up the pieces of a failed IT project over at New Line. True Detective‘s Cary Fukunaga was once attached to the project, but parted ways after creative differences. This dropped the project onto the lap of the man last known for directing the awfully pedestrian horror flick Mama.
Yet Muschietti managed to pick up the pieces and construct a quite impressive horror feature. It’s worth noting that a bulk of IT‘s success is due to the brilliant casting of virtually every performer. The Losers Club both as a collective and individually make the film work, because of their heart.
Bill Skarsgård absolutely transformers himself into one of the most unsettling on-screen creatures that I’ve ever seen. We’re talking Heath Ledger Joker comparisons here that are totally fitting and worthy of discussion. Bill’s Pennywise is deeply disturbing and the very definition of fear.
IT might have already been an iconic character, but not like this. Bill’s Pennywise rightfully deserves to sit next to the legends of the past, like Freddy, Jason, Michael and Leatherface. His character (and performance) is going to do so much for modern day horror, which is far from dead, but definitely missing its iconic characters and franchises (shut up Purge and Paranormal Activity).
Andy Muschietti and his team of writers are definitely to credit as well, because they understand the importance of establishing characters and creating an environment that is okay with growth and development. IT: Chapter One is an R-rated horror film that clocks in over two hours and it never feels it. It patiently builds up the terror and suspense, yet it feels like it’s moving at a breakneck pace. I was amazed at how encapsulated I was and yet how I left the theater immediately wanting to watch Part Two, despite having spent nearly two and-a-half hours in the theater.
Warner Bros. and New Line definitely have a mega horror hit on their hands and I sure hope they learn a thing or two from it. Horror is far from dead and fans will flock in masses for films that clearly show some time and effort were put into them. I’d love to see a new Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th film come of this, but I doubt they’ll be given this much care and attention.
IT: Chapter One mixes modern day conventional jump scares with traditional horror build up and atmosphere. IT feels like a modern day Nightmare on Elm Street, without any forced nostalgia (Stranger Things — which I love, but can see the complaints). I urge readers to believe the hype and checkout IT: Chapter One.
This is the one that we’ve all been waiting for.