Stephen King’s horror classic is back and this outing of his story is bound to shake the senses.
Set in the summer of 1988, the story brings us back to Derry, Maine where Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is crafting a paper boat for his little brother George (affectionately called Georgie played by Jackson Robert Scott). Bill’s stutter is part of his overall speech pattern for much of the film. He instructs his little brother to get the glue from the cellar so that he can go sail her. Georgie hates going to the cellar and initially protests, but Bill persuades him to go. This film goes dark very quickly as the cellar establishes the tone for the film. The other element that is quite creepy is that his mother is playing something on the piano that sounds eerie. Whilst the tempo starts to build, Georgie finds the glue but also explores some other weird things, which also help to paint the scene.
After the boat’s been glued, the paper vessel is ready to sail. The rain is falling at a steady pace and Georgie splashes in the running street water. His pace is broken when he misjudges the height of one of the street warning signs. The boat gets away from him and the boat goes down the sewer drain. Things turn for the worse when Pennywise The Clown (Bill Skarsgård) peers through the darkness with his fiery yellow eyes and begins his conversation with Georgie. The clown introduces himself to Georgie after the little boy says he isn’t allowed to talk to strangers. Now, the clown states, they’re not strangers anymore. Georgie reaches for his boat and the horror begins.
Each member of the Losers is introduced in a gradual, steady way. At Derby High School, Ben is the new kid who gets teased by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his gang. Gretta (Megan Charpentier) bullies Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) in the bathroom. Ben and Beverly meet outside one of the school exits. She asks what he is listening to. Turns out he’s a huge New Kids on the Block Fan. From this moment, the feeling of the film is dynamic, fresh and crazy since each of them brings their own unique take on life. One of the breakaway characters is Richie (Finn Wolfhard) and he gets a number of one-liners in that are relevant and great. Mike (Chosen Jacobs) is introduced in a different way. He works on his grandfather’s farm. His opening scene involves him putting down his first sheep. He can’t bring himself to carry out the act and his grandfather has to step in. One of the compelling elements about this version of this tale is that the focus remains on the Losers as teens, what roles their parents played and how the bloody horrors of that town affected everyone since the town was founded in the early 1800’s.
Ben spends his summer in the library and uses it to discover more things about his new home. Each character’s fears are amplified by Pennywise. Ben’s involved seeing the headless boy from the newspaper clipping. Stanley’s (Wyatt Oleff) fear is this really weird looking painting of a crooked eyed flute player. Richie has a fear of clowns. Eddie’s (Jack Dylan Grazer) fear is lepers. Also, his mother is over protective and Eddie discovers how bad she is. Mike’s fear is the loss of his family in a fire and how he was powerless to save them. Beverly doesn’t necessarily have a fear, but the ugly truth of her father is revealed. Henry and his crew torment Ben at a bridge, which results in some serious carving that will scar him for life. He manages to escape and, by chance, meets Bill, Richie, Eddie and Stanley upstream. Later on, the boys have a loogie contest on the edge of a cliff. The boys dare the other to jump first into the water below. Beverly joins them and beats the boys to the punch. She shakes up the crew in the way that only she could (girl power to the max).
As the story progresses, the power she holds over the boys and other male figures is compelling. Whilst the losers work together to conquer their fears and confront Pennywise, one of the characters doesn’t fair as well. Henry gives in to his inner demons and the outcome of his actions spell certain doom. Pennywise’s grip on his living victims, the adults and reanimation through the dead illustrate how powerful he is. Plus, he uses the town’s sewer system from The Well House to bring his victims back to. His attacks happen every 27 years and he is allegedly responsible for the missing children in Derry since their town records began.
From a story telling perspective, this film does deliver the goods to illustrate a coming of age story of a group of teenagers growing up in a small town in America during the Reagan era. The sound design helped to paint the necessary tension and strife needed to build a dark tale. The lighting and use of shadows also helped to construct the right picture for audiences to enjoy. What is slightly lacking is the real terror and blood curdling surprises that a frighteningly good horror film needs. Overall, this movie is worth the popcorn, drinks and hand clinching from your date. Godspeed.