Bill Skarsgård plays Pennywise the Clown in the newly-released horror film "It."

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Disclaimer: "It" is rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language (mostly from kids). The film makes full use of its R rating, featuring terror as well as disturbing and sometimes bloody violence, mob all of which is directed at young kids. It is also heavily suggested that a father sexually abuses his daughter. Not recommended for anyone who has a strong aversion to seeing these things represented on film.

I’m gonna be honest, I don't like horror movies. I don't get the thrill in being terrified that many people seem to crave. But here’s the thing: I do like movies, and the new adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved creepy-clown novel “It” is the most prominent release currently in theaters, so I went to see it.

Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. That’s not to say that I don't still have some major problems with it, but I’ll get to that.

*Warning: mostly unintentional “It” puns ahead*

Why I liked “It.”

First things first, this is a really well-made movie. Director Andy Muschietti and company did an excellent job. It looks excellent, moves at a good pace, and the performances are solid all around, especially from the kids that make up the Loser’s Club. My favorite parts of the movie were when the kids were hanging out and discovering things together, much in the spirit of 1980s films like "The Goonies" or "Stand By Me" (also a Stephen King adaptation). Choosing to set this iteration in the 80s certainly helps to achieve that goal. The kids all interacted and played off each other in a very organic and refreshingly realistic way, and they frequently gave the film some much needed levity and humor.

One small thing I appreciated was the lack of false jump scares. You know, like when the music gears up and then CRASH!… oh wait, it was just a bird.

I really hate those.

Fortunately this movie avoids doing that. In fact, it avoids the style of jump scare for the most part. However, there is a lot of creepy clown running straight at the camera yelling and furiously shaking its head, so that's good if you're into that kind of thing.

The primary theme of this movie is overcoming fear — from germs, to abusive parents, to ridiculously evil bullies. Pennywise the Dancing Clown, or It for short, takes the form of whatever specifically targets a person's greatest fears — and the film portrays this in truly terrifying fashion.

As I said, I do not typically like horror movies, but this one worked for me because as the kids band together and begin to overcome their fears, the film itself also becomes less frightening. So if that horror thrill is what you’re looking for, this may be a bit disappointing to hear. But for me it made the overall result much more satisfying as it really showed a progression and growth in the characters, which is something you rarely see in modern horror films.

Problems I had with “It”

So now to those major issues I mentioned. At its core, this movie has an emotionally driven story — which is good and mostly effective, but certain tonal shifts undermine this several times throughout the film. Whenever there's an emotional beat, the film doesn't linger there for long. An obvious music cue interrupts the moment to indicate that it's about to get back to the scary stuff. I wish they had let more of those moments play out, or at least made the encroaching terror less obvious. As it is, neither the heartfelt beat nor the horror beat felt as impactful in these scenes, both feeling somewhat void. 

Like I mentioned, the musical score and sound elements are very obvious, particularly in and leading up to moments intended to instill fear. In many spots I really enjoyed the score and how it effectively set the mood or accentuated a particular moment with added emotion, but I swear, every time some scary scene was coming that shrill musical buildup started up, leading to thunderous booms at prime moments combined with frightening yells. For my taste, I like it when a score adds to and builds on the mood — like Jerry Goldsmith’s “Alien” and John Carpenter’s “Halloween” — rather than constantly telling you exactly what you should be feeling with loud and obvious uses of sound.

Should you see “It”?

I would say for the horror fans out there, this is a must-see since it's easily a step above most modern horror movies in basically every aspect of filmmaking and storytelling. "It" is a solid film with a nostalgic vibe and engaging characters that dives into some very dark themes of fear and abuse. While I don’t think that “It” escapes many of the pitfalls of the genre, I do think it’s worth a watch — if you’re comfortable with some of the disturbing content represented. Also, if you're looking for something to fill that “Stranger Things” void in your life, this could be what you're looking for.

Personally, I would recommend you first check out some of the other movies in theaters, such as the highly entertaining “Logan Lucky” or the excellent modern crime drama “Wind River.”

Runtime: 135 minutes

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