Scarecrow cinema has never seemed more popular to us than in recent years. However, when watching these dozens of feature films that promise us an innovative terror, we sometimes get lost, often trying to find an ounce of originality. It’s often a waste of time. However, some achievements do stand out from the crowd and manage to convey emotions that we thought were buried. This was one of Andy Muschietti’s promises when he started shooting his “It”. Preceded by a fine reputation, notably thanks to the television film “Il”, but especially through its reference book written by Stephen King, the feature film had to surprise us while respecting the codes of a popular genre. With a Grizzly Bear Clown expected at the turn, did “It” succeed in his bet?
Welcome to Derry, a small town located in Maine, in the far northeastern United States. There we meet a certain “Club des Ratés” composed of Bill, Richie, Stanley and Eddie, among others. The story begins when Bill’s little brother, Georgie, meets the Flu Clown, stuck in a sewer, who assures him that he wants to be his friend. The problem is, this clown’s not friendly. The one that the members of the “Failed Club” will soon end up calling “It” is in fact a terrible monster that emerges every 27 years to feed off the terror of the children of Derry. And while the creature is terrorizing the town, Bill and his buddies are determined to investigate and put an end to all of its activities.
“It” won’t give you any time. From the very first scene, we understand that the clear objective of the film is to tape you to your seat, leaving you lost, between terror and questioning. And it is this general impression that reigns during the 2h15 screening.
We have to admit that we know where the story is going and that, in the end, each scene is quite expected. In this sense, especially for the readers of the original work, the surprise effect is rather weak and one can feel each jumpscares arriving a few minutes before. But this is not the strength of the feature film. Andy Muschietti’s direction did not wish to lose itself in the nothingness of the horror pre-established by American cinema. Above all, it is the palpable tension it exudes and its above-average artistic dimension that make it a work in its own right. In each scene, you can feel the director’s desire to breathe life into the sets and into the small, grey town of Derry. This can be felt in the overall atmosphere of the film and the ease with which it manages to involve the viewer in the events it depicts.
What is also striking is how coherent and relatively respectful the universe presented to us is of Stephen King’s book. While the greatest worshippers of the original work will certainly find fault with it, we must admit that this is a feature film that attempts to preserve the charm of King’s story while giving it an aura of its director’s vision.
Moreover, the clown “Grippe-Sou” played by Bill Skarsgard is a nice surprise. Behind the make-up and the outfit that seemed to us to be of high quality, it is above all his appearance and each of his mimics that make him a character that shines on the screen. And the man who also calls himself Pennywise is helping to make “It” a true modern horror movie. Because if too much importance is given to the famous “jumpscares” and the effect they can have on the viewer, the film succeeds in bringing us much more. It’s a tenacious fear that holds us in the stomach throughout the projection, as if we were already afraid of the monster and what it is capable of doing. This fear quickly mixes with gory scenes that may shock. “It goes quite a long way when it comes to presenting its visual effects, and we have to admit that seeing children being butchered seemed quite unhealthy to us.
“That” also relies on his cast and especially his young troupe of actors. Surfing, it is certain, on the wave of Stranger Things, the realization gains in charm with the passing of minutes through the discovery of its protagonists. While fans of the Netflix series will easily recognize Finn Wolfhard (Richie), it is especially the talented Sophia Lillis (Beverly) who takes the upper hand. The young actress exudes an extraordinary aura that brings a real plus to the film. We quickly become attached to her, but also to the small group of friends with characters and personalities as different as they are fun. It must be realized that young actors carry a large part of the feature film and, as explained earlier, bring a welcome freshness to horror cinema.
Sophia Lillis is the beautiful discovery of the film
But where “It” really convinced us was in the way he approached the psychology of his characters and played with his classics. While a large majority of spectators certainly think that the great enemy of the film is none other than the monstrous clown, Andy Muschietti contradicts us perpetually. We find ourselves playing with our own feelings and wondering if Grippe-sou is actually the most awful of the characters depicted (we won’t specify which ones, by the way, to give you the surprise effect). By tackling sometimes taboo subjects (the discovery of sexuality, parent/child relationships,…) and by treating them in the fairest and most realistic way possible, the Argentine director allows his story to present figures whose personality will disturb many.
Andy Muschietti, to whom we already owe the very interesting Mamà, won his bet. It allows his film to enjoy a pleasant rhythm, nevertheless chopped up by a few scenes below in terms of quality. But the overall staging is very controlled and we never get bored with the events that are told to us. However, we regret some small scriptural inconsistencies which darken the picture but which could, we hope, find their basis in the probable sequel to the film.
It is easier to understand why “It” and its $35 million budget is breaking records at the American Box-Office. In one week, the film has already earned 218.7 million. And the reason is simple: the feature film is one of the best we have seen in its category. Although it does not really revolutionize the codes of horror cinema, the complexity of its characters, the power of its staging and its artistic façade make it a captivating work. If the sensitive souls must abstain, can the others go into the dark rooms?