MINÉ VAN DER BERG
The much anticipated movie adaption of the Stephen King novel It has finally arrived. The film was released in cinemas in South Africa on 15 September and is based on the first half of Stephen King’s novel. A sequel exploring the second half, which takes place 27 years later, is already in the works.
The story centres around seven friends who call themselves “The Losers Club”, who are terrorised by Pennywise the dancing clown excellently portrayed by Bill Skarsgård. Pennywise shapeshifts and confronts each of the children as their worst fear, his presence sometimes ominously announced by a single floating red balloon. The children, Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff), all manage to carry the film. Their charming portrayal and comradery is in essence what makes the film more than just another horror movie.
The direction by Andy Muschietti was well done, the film remained close to the novel in content and dialogue, with some moments of comic relief added in the form of adolescent banter and teasing. The film is filled with striking images and the R-rating allows Muschietti to explore gory and shocking imagery. Pennywise is a threat to the children from the opening scenes, unlike most horror movies where the threat is unknown in order to build suspense. This does not allow for much character development for the children and some of their personalities are not fully explored. The film is firstly an excellent horror movie, relying mostly on jump scares, and secondly a great coming of age film, exploring the exact moment when childhood ends.
The soundtrack was excellently produced by Benjamin Wallfisch. Children’s voices are splendidly used to evoke terror in the audience, along with the typical horror cues. The score however is much more than just typical scary music, with interesting songs like “Six Different Ways” by The Cure, providing light-hearted breaks from the horror, and perfectly contextualising the setting of the 1980’s.
One of the film’s screenwriters Gary Dauberman perfectly summed up making the movie from the book when he said that “The problem with a book like this is you’re choosing between what’s great and what’s great”.