It: Chapter One (2017)
A smart, sophisticated & satisfying delight that’s fresh, funny & frightening in just the right doses, It: Chapter One (simply known as It) is a first-rate example of a contemporary horror done right. Making terrific use of genre elements to instil an aura of foreboding, providing enough room for its adolescent characters to breathe & bond, and devoting as much effort into their frivolities as it puts in bringing their fears to the surface, It is a richly realised & expertly crafted chiller that not only works as a fascinating entry in the world of horror but also doubles as a wonderful coming-of-age story.
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, It: Chapter One is the first of a planned duology and focuses only on one of the two alternating narratives in the book. Set in the fictional town of Derry during the late 1980s, the story follows a group of seven kids who find themselves being tormented by a mysterious, shape-shifting & child-killing demonic entity that takes the shape of their worst fears to feed on them. As situation goes from bad to worse, the kids take it upon themselves to rid the town of the evil but in order to do so, they must overcome their own personal demons.
Directed by Andy Muschietti, It is only his sophomore effort and yet is quite an improvement over his directorial debut. Opening with a shocking prologue that not only sets the story into motion but also introduces its eponymous being in a chilling fashion, Muschietti manages to strike a near-perfect balance between its moments of drama, comedy & horror and is able to shift the mood seamlessly. Refinements in the technical department further help amplify the film’s sinister look & feel while the dynamic between its young talents is so natural & well-handled that they are highly convincing as a group.
What also makes Muschietti’s work easier is the finely scripted screenplay that packs a thrilling narrative & interesting characters, and is also pierced with an undercurrent of prevalent youth issues like neglect, abuse & bullying. Production design team does well to infuse a contemporary touch to its late 1980s timeline. Cinematography is top-notch, for it encapsulates the story with an ominous vibe and enhances the overall ambience with its polished camerawork & apt lighting. Editing allows its set of events to unfurl at a smooth pace. Sound design is one of its finest aspects, and is damn effective where it’s meant to be, while Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is at times affable, other times fiendish.
Coming to the performances, Jayden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs & Wyatt Oleff make up The Losers Club, amongst whom Wolfhard effortlessly steals the show as the foul-friendly, loud-mouthed Richie. Lillis also chips in with a strong input and expresses her emotions well. Lieberher & Taylor has a dash of maturity in their performance, and rest play their supporting part rather brilliantly. However, it’s Bill Skarsgård’s rendition of Pennywise that will be talked about most as he is downright demented & at times ludicrous in the eponymous role, and his creepy & unsettling presence looms over the entire film. Nevertheless, he isn’t as memorable as expected.
On an overall scale, It: Chapter One is a deftly structured, skilfully narrated & beautifully balanced horror that’s brought to life with genuine care & heartfelt passion, and offers an enjoyable, entertaining & emotionally gripping experience that will appease both the mainstream audience & horror aficionados. The film isn’t without its shortcomings and there are few moments that could’ve been further improved but when it gets something right, it pretty much nails it. What benefits it most is the spot-on chemistry between the Losers Club fellows which, when added to the high marks the film scores in the technical aspects, lifts the whole film by quite an extent. In short, It is an impressive amalgamation of conventional elements that not only succeeds as a riveting standalone horror but also paves a solid groundwork for the remaining half. Definitely recommended.