It’s the summer of 1989, and school has just finished in the little town of Derry, Maine. For most kids of the town it is a time for baseball, goofing off, and going on fun adventures. But not for one boy –Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher). Six months before Bill’s younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) went missing, and although his parents have accepted their loss, Bill hasn’t given up hope of finding him. In order to find him, Bill recruits a group of seven kids -all of whom are considered freaks, loners, and other social outcasts- who call themselves “the Losers”. But it’s not long before the kids realize that Derry is a town with a dark secret, one that could easily get them killed.
Simply put, It is what would happen if Stand By Me (one of the greatest of King adaptions) was combined with a gruesome horror film. Alternatively, it’s like an R-rated version of Stranger Things (although it would be more proper to say Stranger Things is like a toned-down version of It). It is simultaneously an homage to classic coming of age films from the time period and a gruesome horror film. The film alternates with almost rhythmic regularity between classic kid movie scenes like swimming in the local quarry and getting picked on by school yard bullies and being stalked by terrible monsters. The drama element of the film works well partly because of the writing, with the classic story by King augmented by an excellent screenplay by a trio of writers including Cary Fukunaga, the mastermind behind the acclaimed first season of HBO’s True Detective. It also works because of the acting by all seven of the kid heroes. There’s a saying in Hollywood that one of the three things you should never work with is kids, but just like the classic this film emulates (Stand By Me) It proves that you can still make great movies starring kids. My only complaint is that the large number of kids in the group cuts down on screen time for any individual, and as such some of them are not as developed as they could have been.
In regards to the horror aspect, this film is definitely not a jump scare type movie. In fact, most of the time this movie isn’t trying to directly surprise or frighten you, but rather create a sense of ominous dread, which it does phenomenally well with its pacing, music, sets, and creature effects. That doesn’t mean it’s not scary at all, of course- there are a number of scenes on the film which are genuinely frightening. But this is a horror movie which is more about the suspense of inevitable coming horror rather than the fear itself. And as I mentioned earlier, this film is gruesome. Don’t be fooled just because the stars are kids, this movie is not for those with weak constitutions. Although not up to the blood bath levels of a Saw or Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, it is refreshing to see a film which is not shy about placing its young characters in mortal peril.
Add a heaping pile of 80s nostalgia on top of all this, and you have a recipe for box office gold. With the smash success of Netflix’s Stranger Things and the hype for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaption of Ready Player One, it seems like audiences are ripe for a film such as this. And as long as the quality of these films stays as high as It, I suppose I can’t complain.