6. Nightmare Imagery
The titular villain at the heart of this story is an otherworldly threat that is able to root into anyone’s mind and figure out what they are afraid of. In lesser hands, this could all be a lackadaisically executed idea with no real panache to it. Like a lesser “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel, it could have been all visual quirks with no real insight or terror. But this movie really digs into the nightmare fuel at play here and really goes for it.
Pennywise is a Freddy Krueger-esque jokester with Michael Myers’ desire to wring fear out of it’s victims, so he really puts these kids into the fire. From the already horrible clown imagery to lepers and burn victims to blood spewing sinks and dead little boys, this movie is one piece of horrible imagery after another. It’s like a roller coaster ride of nightmares.
To really get into these kids’ mindsets and understand each of their reactions to these things and why they fear them in the first place makes it all work more than a simple horror movie. There’s a reason for everything and each scare matters.
7. Bill Skarsgard
When the plans to move “It” to the big screen were announced, it was met with a certain amount of skepticism with regards to one element. Most people just assumed that no adaptation would be able to top the performance that Tim Curry gave in the supremely mediocre TV miniseries back in the 90s.
Well, it turns out their very well-intentioned fears were unfounded as Bill Skarsgard just gave an amazing performance in this movie that manages to not tread the same ground as Curry, and managed to be arguably even better and more terrifying than Curry.
It’s a haunting role. The pure physicality of it is astounding, disappearing into the role not just thanks to the makeup but due to his command of his vocal and physical work. The vocal tics are great, unhinged in its pure evil and its joy in terrorizing these kids.
The laugh is great. How he walks and runs is great. When casting a role like this, it would be easy to just slap makeup on the guy and call it a day. He is truly enjoying this role and has completely immersed himself in it, making this transdimensional killing machine feel real. This is a truly iconic performance that should land Skarsgard on the horror icon list.
8. The House On Niebolt Street
This movie is lousy with set piece scares. Paced at a breakneck speed not too dissimilar to “The Conjuring 2”, there is a set piece almost every five minutes. But for all the set pieces in this movie, none is better than the kids incursion into the house on Niebolt Street. Figuring out that this is the nexus point for all the crazy shit that has been going on in town, the place where Pennywise should be found, the kids head out to confront it.
It’s incredibly reckless but immensely brave, which is important as this is where the kids figure out that It can be defeated if they stay together and face their fears. But first, Bill and Eddie and Richie have to go into the house and get close to floating down there as Pennywise goes for them. Richie having to face a room full of clowns, Eddie being confronted by a leper, and Bill having to confront the thing that took his brother are all tense as hell and executed with perfection by Muschietti.
It’s the best stuff in the whole movie, capped off with Pennywise cornering Eddie as he contorts himself out of a fridge and takes pure pleasure in Eddie’s broken-armed terror. But when the rest of the group comes in and saves the day, the climax is set into motion. Pennywise realizes it has to enlist help to stop these kids and the kids realize that there is strength in numbers. One of the better horror set pieces in recent memory, this helps cement its place as a great horror movie.
9. Works as a Standalone
The plan to make two movies was a bit of a gamble, as the audience could not have been there to justify the second movie. But what was done here was really smart, as they managed to make a movie that works very well on its own. There is nothing left dangling at the end here. No obvious sequel bait elements meant to be capitalized on later.
If this movie wasn’t as much of a runaway hit as it is, they could have left it alone and the movie would work without the sequel. Obviously the power of the novel lies in the cross-cutting narrative that shows them as adults and how the trauma they suffered as children has stayed with them for life and the final confrontation with Pennywise. But if worse came to worse, this is a standalone movie and a great one at that.
10. It’s Also a Great Jumping Off Point for a Sequel
While it may stand on its own, this is an amazing jumping off point for the inevitable sequel. It laid all the groundwork for the next one. They hint at the deep historical rot in town, something that can be explored more in the sequel as the grown-ups have more resources at their disposal to fully invest into this problem.
Henry Bowers has been set up as a real problem, a ticking time bomb that will explode without them even knowing he’s out there. The kids have all been set up, so there’s plenty of room for the adults to fully break our hearts when we meet back up with them. They can even jump back to new footage of the kids, to fully invest in their friendships. Pennywise has been established and he can come back with a vengeance.
This sequel can be something really special and it has everything set up for it to be a massively entertaining and heartbreaking movie that just really kicks all sorts of ass to finish off the masterful adaptation set forth here.
Author Bio: Tom Lorenzo is from Long Island, he’s NY’s most preeminent pop culture fanatic. If it’s a western or a horror movie, he wants to see it. No argument is too minuscule or flawed for him to go full force with.