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October 17, 2017

‘It’ has revitalized the modern monster movie

(IT Movie official Facebook Page)

Adapted from the 1986 horror novel by Stephen King, the 2017 movie “It” breathes life into the 21st century horror genre—mainly populated by formulaic slasher flicks (“The Bye Bye Man”), and sequels to franchises everybody was tired of ten years ago, like “Saw 19” or whatever they’re at now. Instead of the usual format—one main character that will obviously be kept alive, surrounded by people whose names you won’t remember five minutes after the credits roll—this film captures the true essence of what makes Stephen King’s writing so fantastic: his complex and relatable characters.

The film follows a group of kids self-labeled as “The Loser’s Club”—members include Bill, Eddie, Beverly, Richie, Ben, Mike and Stan—who live in the small fictional town of Derry, Maine, and are pitted against an evil entity, It, that awakens every twenty-seven or so years to terrorize the town and feed on children. Throughout the film, the character It was many manifestations besides Pennywise, as the monster alternates between whatever it’s victims are most afraid of.

For those not familiar with the book or the 1990 miniseries, one might expect the entire film to be shot after shot of a bunch of kids running away from a terrifying clown. In actuality, “It” is a tale of a group of kids overcoming their fears and coming into their own.

Those who are faint of heart will experience a bit of trouble throughout the film, as there are scenes of murder, domestic violence, and, oh yeah, a kid who gets his arm bitten off. Also, any big fans of New Kids on the Block may feel a bit attacked at parts. While the homicidal clowns and New Kids on the Block should disturb you, the key to this film lies in how relatable the fears of the kids are to the audience. We see ourselves in them. Everybody’s afraid of something, whether it be heights, death or changing in public locker rooms (Although, I’m not sure how Pennywise would take that form).

Eddie and Richie are great at serving as comic reliefs, and you’ll really feel for Bill and Beverley’s situations. The true shining character, though, was the brilliant, overweight, and lovestruck Ben Hanscom. Anybody who has ever been bullied, overweight, considered a nerd or had a hopeless crush will be able to relate to Ben’s situation. All of the characters are engaging, yet it is Ben’s myriad personal and social issues that put him ahead of the pack.

While on the topic of characters, many, myself included, have been very excited to see Pennywise on the bigscreen. Bill Skarsgård, who really makes the character of Pennywise his own, fantastically delivered Pennywise’s maniacal personality with horrifyingly witty Freddy Krueger-esque mockery, all at the expense of the children. However, I found the that the filmmakers limiting of Skarsgård’s artistic freedom and film time impacted the dimension of Pennywise’s personality, which unfortunately stunted the quality of the film.

For the most part, I felt that the special effects were well executed. I especially loved the intense, evil glow of Pennywise’s meandering lazy eyes,  Still, I could have used a little less CGI, primarily because I feel that when the audience sees a monster that is very obviously computer generated, it takes away from the scare factor.

Along with the great performances and special effects, director Andrés Muschietti does a fantastic job switching the tone from a comedic coming of age story to a nail biting horror movie at the drop of a dime. He captured the tone that King first went for in the book. Derry truly feels like one big haunted house.

A typical monster movie’s main purpose is to scare you enough to see a sequel. “It” will make you laugh and empathize with its core characters, while also scaring the crap out of you. However, his movie is less about these kids fighting the monster as much as it is about them fighting their fears and overcoming the struggles of growing up that we, the audience, have faced or are facing ourselves. While this isn’t a perfect movie—that title goes to “The Shawshank Redemption” (another Stephen King adaptation)—“It” will make you root for The Loser’s Club, laugh out loud and avoid clowns and sewer drains for the foreseeable future.

Nico Ribadeneyra can be reached at ribadeneyra@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @NicoRibadeneyra.

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