March 23 2018
‘It’ review: sinister small-town summer
08 September 2017

With an abundance of innovative chills, ‘It’ is wonderfully creepy

The force of evil is cyclical. We witness it periodically as generations go by. It lies low for a while and then emerges again, more vindictive than before. Derry, a fictional American small-town where people die or go missing six times more than the national average in the ’80s, could be allegorical to the current atmosphere in the U.S.: it’s haunted by a clown, who feeds on divisiveness and fear.

Like in all moments of oppression, there are a group of dissenters, who, when pushed to an extreme, have no option but to fight back. In It, those would be a group of nerdy tweenagers called Losers. As kids go missing over a summer break, the Losers are haunted by an eldritch clown Pennywise, who seems to be the scariest of all monsters – a phantasmic painting coming alive and a zombie-like leper. But beyond the supernatural anguish, lies an even more gut-wrenching everyday human monstrosity of bullies and abusive parents, which It dares to explore, albeit half-heartedly.

  • Director: Andrés Muschietti
  • Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff
  • Story line: A group of bullied children gang up against monsters

It, which is based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, shares the premise with the coming-of-age film Stand by Me (1986) and Netflix series, Stranger Things. It’s a world not too unfamiliar. Horror-thrillers have a peculiar grammar that stands perilously on the brink of predictability. It is no different. Although its adherence to expectations is probably what contributes to the effectiveness of the monster movie. As seen in a fleeting moment in the film, the poster of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) outside a cinema hall, could be a pledge of allegiance to the brand of storytelling, where the chills are paramount. Director Andy Muschietti’s innovative execution of classic scares such as dripping blood from washrooms taps or entrapment in a room full of clown dolls is both riveting and refreshing. It also belongs to a tiny category of films like New Zealand’s vampire film What We Do In The Shadows (2014), which delightfully pulls of comic moments immediately after — and sometimes even during — a ghastly encounter.

Although, what’s most disappointing is that these adeptly picturised string of nightmarish sequences hang loosely for the most part of the film, unable to congregate into a fluid narrative. Being a monster film, it thankfully avoids the common tropes of religion (crucifix, exorcism, et al) and nyctophobia. Muschietti instead daringly executes the scariest of scenes in bright daylight and with characters surrounded by friends. In addition — common with other noteworthy horror films like The Babadook (2014)and Under the Shadow (2016) — It also refrains from demystifying Pennywise (which maybe a deal breaker for some), thus retaining his spookiness, with indications of a sequel.

Two things that are highly repulsive after watching a scary film is the sight (perhaps a doll or a clown) or tune (maybe a classic song), which yanks you back into the world you left behind in the cinema hall. While It gives you several such objects — even abstract ideas — to create a new phobia, it fails to tap into the immense potential of sound in creating an eerie atmosphere.

The film doesn’t flinch from physically hurting the children in it either, adding to the hair-raising effect it sets out to achieve. The foul-mouthed tweens, played by a cast of impressive actors, stand up to the monsters — both supernatural and human — with heroism that could only be reminiscent of junior ghostbusters. When the film returns, and maybe the kids grow up, the unforgettable battle with monsters would perhaps seem more tolerable than the grim days of adulthood.



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