Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 2
CINEMA rating: V18
Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is a clown who does the opposite of what he’s meant to do: instead of entertaining, he terrifies children, mimicking their worst fears to scare them and claim their lives. Until a group of teens led by Bill (Jaeden Lieberher)—whose brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) was abducted by Pennywise years ago—figures out how the sinister clown magnifies children’s fears to kill their spirit. Bill and friends Ritchie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stan (Wyatt Oleff), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and Beverly (Sophia Lillis) form a group called The Losers’ Club to defeat Pennywise. The children share one thing in common: they are bullied in school by a gang of three led by Henry (Nicholas Hamilton) and they live almost unsupervised by their cruel parents.
Don’t expect to scream in fright except in a few scenes. This adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same title sets out to be a psychological thriller rather than your typical jump-and-jolt horror film. But with too many characters, IT comes short in drawing you in to the mystery of the menacing clown and the tragic experiences of the children, with the exception of Beverly whose character is allowed to develop. Her paralyzing fear of her abusive father and the uncertainties of puberty is played up so well. Sadly, Bill’s central character does not elicit the same empathy, although Lieberher and the child actors deliver good acting. Interestingly, a combination of good lighting, closeups and music succeeds in portraying the ominous characters of the parents, albeit they appear very briefly in the film. Skarsgård as Pennywise is convincing, and the camera does well in zooming in on his mouth because rightly so, that’s how he lures his victims, with his cunning, tantalizing words.
There is blood, gore, and violence in IT but the more disturbing element is the theme. The film portrays parents as everything they should not be: cold, manipulative, ruthless. Some of the children’s fears originate from the parents who either neglect them or abuse them. The children react by either becoming subdued or, pushed to the edge, vengeful and punitive. If at all, the film is recommended definitely not for children but for their parents, as it gives a good peek into how children’s fears are magnified and how their perceptions influence their behavior. Pennywise understands this more than the parents, and so he is able to hijack the children from their homes. A good reminder for parents and significant adults of their responsibility to guide the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual growth of children. The film does have positive lessons to bring to the fore: courage to face one’s fears, and the value of friendship and solidarity. The children draw strength from their togetherness in fighting off the town’s bullies and Pennywise’s evil tricks. Divided, they disintegrate. But together, they succeed in taking courage to overcome their dreads.