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A truly horrifyingly scary movie

Genre: Horror
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 135 minutes
Our Rating:
Directed by: Andy Muscietti
Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Leiberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Olef, Nicholas Hamilton
Review by James Colt Harrison

Generally, horror movies don’t scare me. But It had the hair on my arms standing at attention throughout the movie. If you go into the theater with straight hair, it will be curled by the time you leave. And if your hair is curly upon entering, your strands will be as straight as a poker when you stagger out of your seat. Audiences are treated to a truly horrifyingly scary movie with director Andy Muschietti’s brilliant conversion of Stephen King’s best-selling novel from 1986.

Adapting King’s heavy 1,100 page novel into an entertaining movie was the task of three writers. Director/writer Cary Fukunaga was originally going to direct the movie and formed an early script. He dropped the directing role but remained on the script with fellow writers Chase Palmer and Gary Dauberman. Much of the chills and comedy are the work of these three men in collaboration with final director, Muschietti.

A group of young kids pal around with each other, attending school, running from bullies (an excellent meanie played by Nicholas Hamilton) and awakening their interest in girls. It’s a process all of us go through growing up, being exposed to new and sometimes scary things in life, and realizing how important friendships are to us. This film reminds us of other coming of age movies, and I think that makes us comfortable. The young kids in the movie are all individuals with distinct personalities, which helps the audience remember who is who.

Beginning with a extremely good first scene of bucolic little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) following his paper boat down the gutters in the rain and finally losing it to a storm drain. It’s there the chills begin and we know doom in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown is awaiting sweet little Georgie. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise has been given a role that could have ended up as blatant scenery chewing, but he monitors his performance as the evil clown just enough to the scare the pants off us without our laughing at him. Skarsgard is an up and coming young actor who makes the most of his hideous character.

Young Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the chubby new kid in town, doesn’t fit in at first with the group, so he spends his time in the library discovering that thousands of young children were killed or disappeared in their town of Derry. He relays this to the group –called The Losers by the kids in school — and they are determined to find out what happened to the missing children as well as Georgie. Led by Georgie’s older brother Bill (the excellent 14 year-old actor Jaeden Leiberher), the group is determined to find the truth about the mystery. They should leave well-enough alone, but then there wouldn’t be any movie!

Definitely adding much to the scary aspects of the story is composer Benjamin Wallfisch’s screaching, spine twisting, hair-raising score of spare piano and woodwinds jolts. It can’t be called pure music because of the added element of fear and chills embodied in the notes that leap off the scoring page. It’s a marvelous addition to the thrills of the story. It’s one of the more memorable horror scores, ranking right up there with the unforgettable themes for Psycho and Jaws. You can’t forget it.

This film is definitely one of the best horror films to come out of Hollywood since the classic Universal Pictures series in the 1930s. Fans won’t be able to look at the screen, or be able to look away, either. Expect the unexpected, but don’t give away any of the details that may have someone running and screaming from the theater.

Recommended Audience:
Fans of horror and fantasy