‘It’ Makes Monstrous Impact on Box Offices


Georgie Denbrough peeks into the sewer where his paper boat, made by his brother Bill, has fallen. Moments later it is returned to him by Pennywise the clown, other wise known as ‘It’. Georgie’s death is the first of the film and kick starts the plotline. (Photo courtesy of Google Images)

Annie Knight, Executive Editor



The new adaption of Stephen King’s classic It has floated high above other movies on its opening weekend. It raked in an estimated $123.1 million, the largest opening for a horror movie ever. Despite its large success, ‘It’ has some gaping holes in its story and fails to rhythmically tie together its plot line.

Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema chose to only focus on half of Stephen King’s monster-sized novel. The original novel features a storyline following protagonists in ‘It’ both when they are children and twenty-seven years later as adults; however, the movie only focuses on adolescence. There is something appealing and equally creepy about children in horror movies that could have contributed to the film’s success.

Moviegoers love a good coming of age story, which ‘It’ does well by telling the story of six children overcoming their fears together. Children also contain an element of innocence that stirs empathy in an audience. Particularly, the opening scene of the movie featuring six-year-old Georgie Denbrough unexpectedly meeting Pennywise, otherwise known as It,  in the sewer is haunting. Young Georgie is not afraid of Pennywise at first and innocently says to him, “I’m not supposed to take stuff from strangers,” when offered an iconic red balloon. But, Georgie’s innocence ends up leading to his death. This is the event that kicks off the plotline and causes Bill, his older brother, age 11, to assemble his friends, the self-named Losers’ Club, to hunt down Pennywise, as more kids go missing in their hometown Derry, Maine. The Losers’ club consists of leader Bill along with his friends Richie, Beverly, Ben, Mike, Stanley, and Eddie played by Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff, and Jack Dylan Grazer. The group is terrorized by a group of bullies throughout the movie, led by Henry Bowers played by Nicholas Hamilton. The element of childhood comes back again in hair-raising scenes featuring children singing background music that does well to add to the sinister nature of the movie.

‘It’ contains the classic elements of a horror story that could have led to the movie’s demise. Clowns and creepy old houses have been featured again and again in horror movies; however, ‘It’ shines in the characterization of its young heroines. This characterization sets it apart from other horror movies where the action typically seems to focus on the villain who is terrorizing the protagonists, instead of the protagonists themselves. The film delves deeply into the nature of fear and each child’s specific fears. Perhaps because of this in depth characterization of the protagonists,  the film falls short in characterizing the bullies in Derry and the protagonist’s parents. The leader of the bully gang, Henry, is touched on briefly in his home life, but his motives for terrorizing other children in his startlingly violent way are largely unexplored. Also, the relationships Bill and his friend’s share with their parents seem at times to be more sinister than their encounters with Pennywise.

There are hints of sexual abuse along with over-controlling parents, and parents who are completely absent in their children’s lives. These relationships form a big part of the kids’ psychological makeup, and because Pennywise is a shapeshifting clown who turns into each child’s specific fear, often end up literally terrorizing them.  I would have liked to see the parents given a larger part in the script.

‘It’ also does well in the special effects department. I saw many fellow moviegoers jump in the theatre when a CGI leper corners Eddy, and when a three dimensional Pennywise climbs out of a projector screen in Bill’s basement. However,  ‘It’ tends to almost repeat scenes featuring individual members of the Losers’ Club encountering Pennywise. The scenes begin with the kids encountering the clown alone and ends with a crescendo of music. Repetitive scenes like this fail to establish a steady rhythm or a clear climax in the movie.

The saving grace of ‘It’ is its casting. Crude comic relief provided by Finn Wolfhard playing Richie is enough in itself to go see the film. Jaeden Lieberher also does a fantastic job at portraying Bill’s grief over the loss of Georgie, and he does a very convincing stutter. The star of the film by far, however, was Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the clown. His curved smile, hysterical laugh, and tone of voice are sometimes more chilling than scenes where he is actively preying on the children. Though Pennywise is certainly frightening, the origins of the clown himself are also left hanging in ‘It.’ This ambiguity may have been intentional since the clown personifies fear itself, which has no origin, but I would be curious to know how Pennywise came to be.

Despite shortcomings, It contains a touching coming of age story at its heart that explores the nature of fear and will continue to haunt many generations to come.