I would categorize myself as more of a “passive” horror fan, I will normally check out whatever gets good reviews (Get Out, Green Room, It Follows in recent history come to mind), but I am almost never rushing out on opening weekend to get my socks scared off. But credit to director Andy Muschietti and the It marketing team, because I could not wait for this to open. And I was not disappointed.
I have tried on a few occasions to muster through Stephen King’s 1168 page behemoth, and have never been able to maintain the energy it takes. In general, King can be a little bit of an emotional stretch for me, but Friday was a perfect storm. I was stressed at work, anxious about a music festival over the weekend, and didn’t want to be out too late. I knew I would be seeing It, but I hadn’t planned for how excited I was. I just wanted to get distracted by real life issues and fear a psychopathic clown instead. It worked.
So a little background, It is a movie about a shape shifting evil entity terrorizing the fictional town of Derry, Maine, specifically going after kids. This “entity” is most known for taking the form of the clown Pennywise, as brilliantly portrayed by the fine Bill Skarsgard (of Hemlock Grove/Skarsgard family fame). Our story begins with young Georgie, being lured and attacked by It, kicking off the main plot line of his older brother Bill, going after It with his band of misfit friends, labeled the Losers.
Right off the bat, Muschietti reminds you that despite the protagonist’s age, this is a hard R horror movie. We had seen Georgie meeting Pennywise in the previews, but I had an ill-conceived notion that would lead to an aerial shot of a yellow raincoat disappearing into the storm drain. Instead, we get a terrifying scene in which Pennywise rips off Georgie’s arm, cutting to the 6 year old screaming and bleeding out into the flooding street as a clown arm slowly reaches out of the gutter to drag him into the sewers. It was a tonally perfect opening that really set the stakes for the rest of the movie. Don’t feel safe, kids die in Derry.
From there, the movie is driven by the preteens, the Losers. Sophia Lillas as Bev and Finn Wolfhard as Richie were the standouts to me, with Sophia doing most of the dramatic heavy lifting, save for Bill’s front porch speech. Richie (beaver trapping) and Eddie (gazebos) were my favorite for humor, with genuinely funny one liners where they probably could have gotten away with weaker unoriginal jokes. As a comedy fan, I recognize and appreciate the effort here instead of just inserting derivative crap a la Baywatch.
To avoid spoiler territory, let’s talk about the implications of It’s success. Blowing the estimated 60-70M with a whopping 123M opening weekend, it is the 3rd biggest opening of the year, 2nd biggest R rated weekend box office of all time (Deadpool remains king) , and biggest September opening of all time as well. In an era where “summer movies” start in April and peter out in September, this is pretty much unprecedented success for a thriller based off a dated property from the 90s (seriously, check out the original Tim Curry version again, it has aged poorly). It continues to dwarf numbers of the previous largest horror opening, Paranormal Activity 3, beating it by 70 million weekend 1 and on track to pass it’s total domestic BO by Friday.
It: Chapter 2 has already been green lit, but I worry that studios may take the success the wrong way. Audience are not asking for more Stephen King adaptations, or for resurrection of old properties, or movies starring kids that won’t be as talented as the ones in It. This should say loud and clear that audiences like horror done well, with heart, and maybe a little nostalgia thrown in for good measure. Honestly I worry the sequel won’t have the same vibe, since the timeline of the novel will have the Losers reuniting as adults. For now, I will just be on the lookout for casting news (Bill Hader as Richie? Please?) and pray for the best. Holding out hope the title of- It: You’ll Float 2.
This is nowhere near a perfect movie, nor the scariest movie I have ever seen. It was more “The Goonies, but with a killer clown” as I said to my friend immediately after. But the caliber of child acting, the story, and the strength of the themes puts this on my recommends for the next couple of weeks. At least until Stranger Things returns. 9.5/10