Fear of Clowns is termed coulrophobia. Some people are terrified at the site of them. “Seinfeld” TV show character Cosmo Kramer was one of those so afflicted. Why are people afraid of clowns? Is it their made up faces, funny clothes, bad hair, floppy shoes, or silly laugh? Or is it that we can’t see the person behind the disguise. Are they a good or bad person?
Pennywise the Clown of the movie It is pure evil. Don’t let his initial impression of good humor and friendliness distract you. Pennywise is a very malevolent spirit who loves to eat children. The choppers behind his smile are part Alien detachable front protruding jaw combined with a shark’s multiple rows of razor-sharp teeth.
It is an adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name. A TV mini-series was first made of the book in 1990. King, a Maine native, who still lives in Bangor part of the year, sets the story in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. The adults in the town seem impervious to all the children who have gone missing. Posters are printed of the missing, but one scene shows they are pasted one on top of the other. The most recent missing child’s poster on top.
Not everyone is so unconcerned about the situation. A tight group of early teens start to delve into the mystery. The group is deemed a bunch of losers by some other kids, including a group of bullies who pick on them at every opportunity, even hitting them. The kids ride their bikes all over town as they try to unravel the mystery.
The main character in the losers group is Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) whose little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) has gone missing. Georgie was last seen chasing after a waxed, paper sailboat that he and brother Bill had assembled together as it quickly floated down a current of rain water in the street and into a storm sewer. He looks into the sewer and encounters Pennywise.
Pennywise can seem very charming, but he is a raging volcano of pure evil. Often a sign that he is around is a red balloon on a string that appears to a targeted child. Pennywise is also a shape-shifter who can take on other forms and personas in pursuit of his sinister agenda.
Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård does a remarkable job as Pennywise. With emotive facial expressions and distinctive and creepy voice, the character reaches full effect in his most capable hands. The Pennywise character is big, strong, and agile. He would make an outstanding defensive tackle for the Steelers, but would probably rack up a lot of penalty yardage for unnecessary roughness.
All the children in the losers group play their parts to perfection, including Finn Wolfhard as motor-mouth teen Richie Tozier. It’s fun to listen to their young teen dialog and interests. Sophia Lillis does a fine job as a Beverly Marsh, who’s not only targeted by Pennywise, but also by two love-struck teens in the group. Heavy-set, new kid in town, Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) spends a lot of time in the town’s library to avoid the bullies during the summer break. It’s there that he discovers some unsettling parts of the town’s history while reading about Derry. He enlists the other members of the group who have also been having some scary experiences.
The film’s special effects are high-grade and there are definitely some heart palpitation moments. It can get somewhat gorey, after all it’s not easy to battle an evil clown. Humor, some subtle, some obvious, sprouts up throughout the film. Director Andy Muschietti sets up some clever shots and transitions while also keeping the film moving at a good clip.
At the end of the movie I was thinking that they were sure leaving a lot of loose ends Then before the credits rolled the screen showed the words It Chapter One. I then remembered that I did see previously that they were telling the story over two films. It Chapter Two should be in production next year. It is one of the best killer clown, haunted house, murder mystery, kids on bikes during summer break movies ever.
It is rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language.
Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers Entertainment.
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and is now afraid of clowns.