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CINEMASCOPE: CLOWN CARNAGE

September 17, 2017

Based on Stephen King’s classic horror novel from 1986 and directed by Argentine filmmaker Andrés Muschietti (Mama), It is a supernatural-themed film featuring the iconic trans-dimensional killer clown Pennywise. I found it to be plenty of fun, even if the scary sequences didn’t do a number on me.

I’m not complaining though, for all the unsettling scenes involving Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) are thoroughly entertaining. The CGI is phenomenal with Pennywise coming across as quite sinister with his creepy smile and a hungry facial expression almost animalistic in nature. When Pennywise’s mouth opens as he goes in for the kill he almost resembles a xenomorph in makeup — this is less ridiculous than it sounds.

I just didn’t find the horror frightening enough the way I have in James Wan’s work, probably because clowns don’t do it for me the way ghost stories do. But your mileage may vary on this front. It is smashing box office records and the packed audience comprising young adults I saw the film with on opening night were screaming with regularity.

Aside from the excellent special effects that drive the chills, It has plenty to offer in terms of heart and soul. The narrative is reminiscent of the ’80s coming-of-age films directed at teenage audiences such as The Goonies (1985) and even makes a John Hughes (The Breakfast Club) reference. Clearly, Muschietti was shooting for nostalgia. In fact, it’s no coincidence that It often feels a lot like modern sci-fi/horror classics such as Netflix’s Stranger Things (2016) or J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 (2011) that are similarly skillfully built on the same platform.

It does a wonderful job of taking you back to your childhood

It begins in 1988 when Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), an adorable and rather innocent seven-year-old, takes a paper boat given to him by his elder brother William ‘Bill’ Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) out to play with on what happens to be a rainy day. Here, he loses control of the little vessel until he finds it near a drain, where he is taken by Pennywise in an exciting if tragic opening sequence.

We soon meet other children who’ve had close encounters with Pennywise. These include Benjamin ‘Ben’ Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), an overweight boy who is bullied at school, Richard ‘Richie’ Tozier, who has a hilariously foul mouth and is played by the star of Stranger Things Finn Wolfhard, Stanley ‘Stan’ Uris (Wyatt Oleff) a somewhat spiritual Jewish boy, Michael ‘Mike’ Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) the only African American of the main characters who tragically lost his parents in a horrific fire, Edward ‘Eddie’ Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer) who is a boy with asthma and is often an amusing foil for Tozier’s jokes and, finally, Beverly ‘Bev’ Marsh (Sophia Lillis), the only girl in the group who is in a touching love triangle of sorts with two of the boys and is a something of a Molly Ringwald type. Alongside Bill, these kids form the Losers’ Club and group up to find poor missing Georgie.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 17th, 2017