Having not read Stephen King’s novel, nor seen the 1990 televised original, I found I could lap up director Andy Muschietti’s version without continually making comparisons - a fact that made It all the more exciting, coulrophobia be damned.
Coming in at 135 minutes, you get a lot of film for your money, but a “horror” movie this is not. Although that doesn’t mean you won’t hide behind your hands. Often. Instead, It creepily presents itself as a family adventure movie akin to Stand By Me, or E.T - not simply due to the 80s setting, although that naturally evokes a similar atmosphere, but because of the very real, very detailed, and totally endearing child protagonists. Each character has their own arc, their own strengths and vulnerabilities, and, of course, their own fears, most of which are mapped out and constructed clearly and thoughtfully - albeit in something of a “safe” pattern, but a forgivable one, for each of the child actors are too good to make you really notice a formula. Especially Sophia Lillis, who shines here in arguably the most challenging role in the film, Beverly, who joins the all-boy “Losers club” to escape incessant classroom slander and her controlling, abusive father.
I say this is not a horror because It doesn’t just set out to scare you. There are jump scares and shock violence, but the fear that you really feel comes from the way the story is crafted. When together, the fizzing chemistry between the cast draws you in, their boyish repartee instantly recognisable and genuine. When apart, the narrative juggles real life - mundane, unfair, and often sad - with spine-tingling horror; the latter being amplified greatly by the successful set up of the former. Consequently, the horrifying moments are made more horrifying because of your developing attachment to these kids. Not only are you scared, but you also genuinely want them to make it, which leads to another aspect where It thrives – in creating a thorough “good vs evil” spirit to the film, with which you’re fully on board. This is encouraged by Bill Skarsgard’s hypnotising Pennywise, who, behind the horror, conveys a wicked and giddy self-satisfaction in his actions, for which you desperately want him vanquished. There are, inevitably, some of the cliché horror movie tropes, but for the most part the protagonists thankfully refrain from making illogical and frustrating decisions purely for the progression of the plot. Not completely though; you will be rolling your eyes at the occasional wander off-ers.
Moving, funny, and brimming with heart, It will stay in your mind for much more than it’s nightmarish moments, and whilst it won’t give you sleepless nights, you’ll probably check twice before turning out the lights.