Review: Stephen King’s "It" is more than just jump scares and gore

Stephen King’s ‘It’ is the latest horror to be depicted from page to screen, following other classics of his infamous horror stories such as ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘The Shining’.

Similar to its on-screen predecessors including 2013’s ‘Carrie’, this book-to-movie adaptation modernises the story by bringing it 30 years into the future to the summer of 1989 in comparison to the novel, which is set in 1958. Whilst this might be disappointing for the hard-core literature lovers as it means some of its plot and characterisation is cut out, it still keeps the nostalgic feel intact.

However, I feel that this actually works in favour of the modern day audience, as it gives new audiences who haven’t read the book a more familiar feeling. Hereby Muschietti still does a good job of keeping the overall tone of the book whilst being mindful of new fans of ‘It’.

The focus on friendship in the adaptation is a solid theme throughout that both booklovers and cinema-goers are sure to admire. The closeness between the so-called ‘Loser’s Club’ is heartening to see, and child actors including Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard really stand out in these scenes. You find yourself rooting for the vigilant Losers Club to overcome the clown and stick together – the bond of which is something that every audience member can relate to, old or new.

Similarly, the love triangle between Beverly, Bill and Ben adds a lighter tone to the dark horror. This, combined with the theme of friendship and resilience, makes the movie more complex and memorable, offering a difference that audiences will definitely approve of. Again, this complex layering really gives a universal meaning to the film, allowing everyone to relate despite its more supernatural happenings.

Whilst the movie itself offers much opportunity for dramatic horror scenes full of superficial blood, gore and jump scares aplenty, it still suffices in conveying the real-life horror that members of The Loser’s Club face. These are a wide-ranging array of social issues that span what the Losers go through: racism, sexual abuse, bullying, bereavement, the list goes on. Some of these are merely alluded to: indeed, they are so full of horror that they cannot be explicitly shown onscreen without detracting from the overall theme.

This is the very complexity that makes King’s horrors stand out the most, giving the film a more dynamic and complex feel, transcending genres rather than being restrained to the stereotypical horror. Balanced with the supernatural elements that are archetypal of the genre, it switches between the real and the make-believe seamlessly.

Overall, I feel that the movie offers a good adaptation and adds intriguing insights with the modern retelling that welcomes new audiences successfully. However, old fans of the book might be more disheartened about what is cut from the story, including some more faithful characterization and plotline.

 

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