Director Andy Muschietti’s knows his way around a spook story, as evidenced by his very creepy Mama, and with the aid of a troupe of incredibly gifted child actors and the can’t miss image of a clown roaming the sewers, he delivers the goods. The film rocks you with jump scares and terrifying imagery as Pennywise hunts his prey, and Muschietti covers his doomed Maine town in dread. Yet, the relationships between the children are authentic and sweet, engendering empathy and bolstering a critical plot point in combating the evil that lurks below.
My orthodontist used to have his walls covered by clowns of every shape and size, a decor choice which contributed to my crooked teeth. In every clown on that wall was a potential Pennywise, a diabolical trickster and eater of souls with a gift for gab that could entice vulnerable kids to their doom.
But enough about me. Muschietti’s Pennywise is as indelible and monstrous a film character as I’ve seen.
There are a few weaknesses. The film is too long, and as my son pointed out, they could have done with one less child character. There are also a few script clunkers, such as when one of the children mentions that the town has six times the national average in missing people, and a higher percentage for kids. Such a town would be dead, not seemingly thriving.
Last, Stephen King hates adults. That is all well and good (who doesn’t?), but the conceit is hackneyed. As with most King stories centered on kids, in It, every adult is cruel, abusive, distant, crazy and/or a molestor, which is meant to underscore the vulnerability of the children, but really, only serves to cheapen the story.
Still, this is well worth the $235 it currently costs to attend a movie.