Child acting, fantastic jump scares make ‘It’ a wise way to spend your pennies

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in the film adaptation of Stephen King's It.
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Grade: 4.0/5.0

For many horror movies, finding a balance between a captivating story and scaring the audience is a difficult, oftentimes impossible feat. So many modern horror films focus far too much on shocking the audience with terrifying imagery that it takes away from the horror behind the story. However, Andy Muschietti’s remake of Stephen King’s “It” does a remarkable job at balancing an amazing story, humor and bloodcurdling scenes — it’s easy to see how his novel has paved the way for other more recent films and television shows.

In the newest adaptation of “It,” a young boy named Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) is killed by a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) who lives in the sewers. After a string of other child disappearances in the town, Bill and his friends start seeing hallucinations of the same clown taking the form of their worst nightmares and trying to kill them. They embark on a quest to kill the clown and find out what really happened to the children in their small town.

Not only was the plot exciting, but the music made the film even more enticing. Between the mix of a young child singing lullabies and the suspenseful background noise before a shocking moment, it seems as though every musical tone not only fits each scene, but makes it more suspenseful. The balance between silence and eery tempos of the songs made the atmosphere in “It” all the more chilling.

“It” also manages to be playfully hilarious, even as it terrifies us. Aside from the stereotypical pre-teen boy jokes — mainly about sexual misconceptions and puberty — the film also had some jokes catered toward the older audience, mainly taken from the 1980s setting. While these jokes might fly over the heads of younger members of the audience, there are enough generic jokes between the boys to keep everyone laughing. Unlike the 2013 “Carrie” remake, “It” doesn’t try too hard to be modern. The 1989 setting is apparent, but most of the film’s humorous content manages to transcend time.

While the jokes and the dynamic between the group of boys were hilarious, what wasn’t funny was the ongoing presence of the terrifying Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård. In the original 1990 miniseries, Tim Curry was cast as the horrendous villain, and it’s hard to watch the new version without comparing the two. While Skarsgård does a fantastic job with his surprising terror and vocal tone, there were moments where he almost spoke too fast and became difficult to understand. The special effects on his eyes and movement worked really well, but it’s hard not to yearn for the goofy yet hair-raising portrayal by Curry in the 1990s miniseries.

The child acting was more impressive. Fresh off of “Stranger Things,” actor Finn Wolfhard gives a great performance that balances humor with terror. He does a fantastic job at being a character in a horror movie that is both realistic and brave. In addition, newcomer Jack Dylan Grazer plays another one of the boys and does a skillful job of showing morality and standing up for one’s beliefs, despite the absurd situation the children are in. One final standout was Jaeden Lieberher, who plays the film’s lead character. His stutter was impeccable, and his emotion behind losing his brother was truly heartbreaking.

This remake serves as a reminder of Stephen King’s influence in the horror and thriller genres. Shows like “Stranger Things” and movies like “Stand By Me,” similarly about a group of ostracized adolescents battling an evil force, further prove that the influence of “It” has grown even stronger over time. While the newest adaptation doesn’t strictly follow the novel it’s based on, it still does a great job of covering the basis of the story. “It” is fun, terrifying and worth every penny.

Contact Samantha Banchik at [email protected].

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