It will at times scare the bejesus out of you yet satisfy your yearning for those old pubescent days of fears running wild.
Director: Andy Muschietti (Mama)
Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation), Gary Dauberman (Annabelle)
Cast: Finn Wolfhard, Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde)
Runtime: 2 hr 15 min
by John DeSando
“I’m sorry. WHO invited Molly Ringwald?”
Although It is not the comedy that quote would suggest, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s story is rich with horror tropes and allegorical clichés; it is also a darn good horror flick. Now it might not scare the bejesus out of you, but it will satisfy your need to see what lies at the bottom of the well, and it’s not pretty. Also, it will make you laugh.
This hodgepodge of early teens calling themselves The Losers Club, all males except for a cute girl, Beverly (Sophia Lillis, who could pass for Ron Howard ‘s daughter), are caught up in a 1989 Reagan-era search for a mad clown, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), who lives in the sewer and eats children. While that premise is rich enough with jump scares and telegraphing deaths, the more important themes of overcoming fears and working together to defeat evil are well presented if sometimes only through metaphor.
For instance, the sequence with sheep being led to slaughter emphasizes the need to break away and express individuality. At the same time, some sheep-like following is necessary as only the group can defeat the evil. We all know what happens when in horror films someone leaves the protection of the fold.
Nothing more expressed the angst of early teens than adults who don’t listen to their kids or adults who prey on them, and not just a deranged clown because some dads here are downright bad in the way they treat their offspring. It does a great job showing the disturbing challenges of adolescence, not the least of which are their messy pubescent thoughts and pursuits. The film is, therefore, a mess, but a good one, because their lives are a mess of anxieties.
Fear is the dominant motif, of clowns who seduce kids into the sewers to dads who stalk their daughters. No 13 year old is exempt, and even the male hero, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), has a stutter. Yet, if one is willing to overcome evil by banding with others, as the nerdy kids do against over-the-top bullies and rabid clowns, life can be tolerable and offer 27 peaceful years until the clown reappears and eats some more kids.
By then our heroes will be adults, eaten buy life itself. Who says Pennywise is pound foolish?
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com