Under Review: “It”

It centers on the Losers, who face Pennywise, while standing up to local bully.

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“It” centers on the “Losers,” who face Pennywise, while standing up to local bully.

Camille McFarland and Tyler King, Staff Writers

My friends and I entered the theatre with little knowledge of Stephen King’s 1986 “It” and varying levels of horror tolerance. We didn’t expect much except a terrifying clown and jump scares, but director Andy Muschietti and writers Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman delivered an unsettling narrative on child abuse, bullying and ostracism.

“It” is the first in a two-part installment that follows King’s original novel. The protagonists live in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. During a storm, Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) is lured into a drain by Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) and killed. Soon after, Pennywise begins terrorizing other children, so they band together in their “Losers’ Club” to confront him while dealing with bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton).

The visuals of “It” are a highlight of the film. Pennywise’s different appearances (a clown, a come-to-life painting, a headless boy and a torrent of blood) are rendered in great detail. His encounters with the children are visceral and terrifying. However, those moments do little more than scare. The seven “Losers” are a large cast, but a lack of character development spotlights only a few of them. Once the ensemble comes together, most of the children’s individual stories get left behind, instead focusing on their hunt for Pennywise.

Despite this, Muschietti’s treatment of abuse and bullying subtly add to the psychological effect of the film. Abuse is layered throughout the film with Beverly, who rebels against her sexually abusive father and Bower’s sociopathic tendencies. Protective parents become increasingly violent and controlling, while fear drives the Losers apart, even as they remain united against a common enemy.

While “It’s” cinematography was striking, the everyday scenarios the Losers faced created the strongest impression. The reality of these situations contrasted sharply to the unrealistic horror of Pennywise. Initially unsatisfied by the jumpscares, the subtle yet disturbing scenes left us uneasy. The movie addresses topics that are too often forgotten, and does so in a way that made us question our own ideals.