"It" fails as horror movie but succeeds in character development

October 3, 2017 — by Vivien Zhang

As an avid clown-hater but a thriller movie enthusiast, I was conflicted when I saw that an adaptation of Stephen King’s “It” was coming to theaters. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted Pennywise the Dancing Clown to make his way into my nightmares, but I decided to take a chance. Unfortunately, “It” fell short of my expectations as a horror movie, but it wasn’t a total failure in that it did a good job developing the characters’ path to maturity.

The movie centers around a group of seven outcasts called “the Losers” who live in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, where a mysterious, shape-shifting clown named Pennywise kills and feeds off children’s fears every 27 years. Each of the children has interactions with their individual fears and, spoiler alert, they come together to overcome them and defeat Pennywise.

Compared to the 1990 original, the 2017 version is much darker, putting emphasis on Beverly Marsh, the only female “Loser,” and her life with a physically abusive father. The newer version of this film shows the father as more corrupt and controlling with Beverly than before. While the old version of the movie shows her transition from weak to strong, the newer version introduces her as an already tough and independent girl with a harsh attitude due to being slut-shamed by the other girls in her school.

While the movie does a good job of creating and developing the characters’ personas, “It” is anything but nightmarish. The choppy scene-to-scene transitions between each of the children’s haunting encounters with Pennywise detract from the “horror” aspect.

The movie makes use of masterful cinematic effects, but it is rather frustrating to see the same jump scare used over and over again; many such scares are placed back-to-back yet have no variation between the dramatic music buildup and predictable ending.

The movie does succeed, however, in focusing on the camaraderie and awkwardness that surrounds its protagonists’ transition from childhood to adulthood.

“It” showcases adults as additional monsters “the Losers” have to face, as they are physically and emotionally abusive. The lack of an adult figure leads to the formation of a sadistic group of teenagers that bully "the Losers" throughout the entire movie to take out their anger. The movie effectively depicts the violence between the bullies and "the Losers" through their gruesome actions and foul language, such as carving letters with a swiss-army knife onto Ben’s (one of "the Losers") stomach.

Through these violent interactions, the audience sees that the children learn to protect themselves, even without the presence of reliable adults, setting the premise for the importance of their transition into proper adulthood. Because they are all uniquely burdened by the unfairness from their families and peers, they begin to mature as a group.

Although I am thoroughly disappointed by the lack of the promised “horror” factor, “It” finds success in developing the complex relationship the children share while taking a step into the adult world together.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 Falcons.

 

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