ONCE upon a time clowns roamed the earth, making children giggle through brightly painted faces, jokes, and overly large feet. Oh, how that has changed. Forget happiness; the clown has now transformed into a sinister figure that you would never invite to your child’s birthday party. The big screen has contributed to this stigma (alongside killer clowns), and Stephen King’s IT is a prime offender. As an avid King fan, I was unbelievably excited for this adaptation, and being such a huge fan of the novel, I went in with high hopes and expectations. Four words: it did not disappoint.
Now, I’ve heard some reviews from various people about the film not being scary enough. I can understand this argument – it does often rely on jump scares – but personally I found it terrifying. Evidently, as I was the only one in the cinema who actually screamed. The special effects of course aided this fear factor; the way in which Pennywise was brought to life with such effects made the imposing cruelty of this monstrous entity all the more powerful. But of course, it wasn’t just IT that needed to be horrific; the filmmakers had to visibly convey the effects of IT on the children involved. Effects allowed the vivid descriptions from the novel to explode across the screen and really play upon the audience’s minds. As an adult (*shudders*) it is important to appreciate that a child’s fear will be different to your own, but the manner in which the young characters’ fears were transposed made you empathise with them deeply. You were Bill, or Eddie, or Bev; you felt their fears, and you felt Pennywise claw into your mind, talons scraping across thoughts that you know are irrational, and yet still felt so unbelievably real from the safety of your theatre seat.
But it isn’t just Pennywise the kids have to contend with. There are overbearing or neglectful families, bullies, changing friendships, and unknown new feelings. Sometimes dubbed a coming of age tale, the filmmakers wisely chose to closely interweave such themes with the presence of Pennywise. The aforementioned empathy shines through because everyone has gone through one of the scariest processes of all: growing up. This normalcy of aging, of change, of new things completely contrasts the abnormality of Pennywise. The setting also contributes to this contrast; the picturesque town of Derry doesn’t initially strike one as a town haunted by centuries of despair, and this emphasises the polluting and corrupting presence of absolute evil.
“Bill Skarsgård truly strikes an alarming figure as Pennywise”
The casting in this new adaptation also proved excellent. Bill Skarsgård truly strikes an alarming figure as Pennywise; he manipulated his tall, lanky appearance to an almost puppet-like effect, truly exhibiting the now iconic creepy clown vibe that Pennywise inhabits. The prosthetic work done was masterfully sinister, although much was done practically by Skarsgård himself. The kids themselves were all cast spectacularly, and the fidelity in character from book to film only further heightened my praise.
The costume design is another area of merit. You get the typical eighties vibes from the children, but again it is Pennywise’s outfit which really impressed. It appears old and somewhat ragged, but it is the variety of different elements incorporated which help to capture his true nature. One of the key characteristics of Pennywise is that he is ancient; a dark entity that has been terrorising Derry every 27 years for millennia. The fact his costume showcases different styles from the various eras serves to highlight this, making his demonic visage even stranger. That and it’s just creepy full stop.
To conclude, I really enjoyed this film! I highly recommend you see it, especially if you are a King fan. If you’re not, this may be the film to get you hooked onto the master of horror.bookmark me