In 1986 Stephen King released a thriller novel about clowns, turtles, and a group of twelve year old friends trying to make it through. In 1990 Tommy Lee Wallace directed a horrid, made for TV, film that left viewers overly concerned about killer clowns. In 2017, Andy Muschietti brought the killer clown story to life, once more (even after a failed TV series too) to showcase the brilliance of Stephen King’s novel, IT. By bringing in our favorite Stranger Things actor, Finn Wolfhard, and pairing him with an equally fun and talented bunch of young child actors(resses), and you get a film that does Stephen King right.
If you don’t know the premise of IT here’s a quick synopsis; gore not included. The city of Derry, Maine has been haunted for thousands of years by a strange creature that lurks on children’s fears. It lures them in, devours them, and once satisfied, goes into a 27 year sleep, only to emerge again to take more children. The worst part? No one in the town know about this creature, and has no clue what has been happening to the children of the town since it was discovered in the 1700s.
Our story is set in 1989, eight months after Bill’s younger brother, Georgie, was taken by It. When another girl goes missing, Bill, filled with guilt over the loss of his brother, enlists his group of close friends to help him find her. Of course, Bill hopes that in their search they will also find clues to finding Georgie. In their search, they befriend Ben and Bev, and together the group of seven friends start to become tortured by It. One by one, each friends sees their greatest fears manifested into real life beings, usually accompanied by the infamous Pennywise the Dancing Clown: It’s main form throughout the film. Throughout the film they fight each other, bullies, their fears, and Pennywise itself; but I won’t ruin the ending for you.
I saw IT in theaters the night it came out, and a week or so later, and the film got a 9/10 from me both times. Rotten Tomatoes gave the 2017 It film an 85% rating compared to its 1990 counterpart, that only got 57% on the same platform. The first time you see the movie, you’re too nervous about when the next jump scare is to actually appreciate the genius of Stephen King’s plotline. Once I left the theater the first time, I had some ideas of subliminal messaging the film may have been showing, and google made me feel like I was onto something for sure. When I entered the theatre the second time, I knew when the jump scares were, and I was able to sit down and see the psychological factors that affected the kids throughout the film.
For instance, after careful google research, I found out that Pennywise has a nemesis who takes the form of a turtle, and turtles are references twice throughout the fim. The first time is when the kids are cliff diving and swimming in the river, my first thought in the film was “It travels through the sewers!! This isn’t safe!!” Then Ben feels something by his foot and all I could think was “This is it! Bye Ben!” But the kids say it’s only a turtle, and somehow they come out of their swim untouched by Pennywise. Maybe, just maybe, the turtle was protecting the kids from It. The second time we see a turtle brought up in the film is at Bill’s house. After Bill is woken up to a leak above his bed, he goes to get a bucket to catch the water. He gets distracted, and ends up in Georgie’s room, and picks up a turtle Georgie had made of Legos. Within minutes, a fake Georgie (created by Pennywise to scare Bill) runs away from the door, when Bill goes into the dining room, he see’s Georgie running away and drops the turtle, shattering it. When he follows Georgie, he is attacked by It. My assumption? It was afraid of the Lego-Turtle, and ran away, but once Bill had dropped the turtle, shattering it, It wasn’t afraid to go after Bill. This can also explain why Pennywise shows up in the basement and not upstairs: Pennywise was afraid of the turtle.
Pennywise would manifest monsters to torture the kids before It would show up. Each of the monsters represented the kids biggest fears. For Bill, it was the lost of Georgie, the guilt he felt for it, and the fear that more kids would go missing. It manifested itself in the form of Georgie because of this. Stan’s biggest fear is his father’s disapproval, which manifests itself in the form of a woman from a painting hanging in Stan’s father’s office, showing the literal fear of the woman and the internal fear of his father’s disapproval. For Ben, he fears the past of the town, and ending up like the kids who passed years ago at the hands of It. That’s why his fear is shown as a headless ghost of a child who passed away. Bev’s biggest fear was her father and staying something that she wasn’t because her father always called her his “little girl”. At this point, Bev has finally gotten her period, and realizes that she doesn’t want to be the victim to her father anymore, so she cuts off her hair. Her fears manifest into blood spewing out of her sink, and her hair grabbing her to drag her down to Pennywise. Mike’s fear was his parents death, in a fire years prior, and sees their hands trying to escape from a store door. Finally, Richie’s fear is realized at the end when he announces he fears dying, but is more afraid of losing his friends.
Overall, IT, was a deep film, with subliminal messages hinted throughout the film, along with nods to the original film and the novel. The actors were amazing, and I would recommend this film to anyone. I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat until Part 2.