Dateworthy: A Better “It”?

IT chart

Is “It” Dateworthy?: YES.

Stephen King’s epic novel about a demonic presence in the form of a clown killing children in small-town Maine, and a group of misfit kids who stand together to face it, offers some intense scares but is filmed with relative restraint and is good fare for those who can handle horror. The outstanding young cast gives this a surprising amount of heart as well, making this a film that will tug at the heart while making you grip your armrests.

A well-made scary movie can be a fun part of a great date night. The mix of rollercoaster thrills and some good tension-relieving laughs can combine to set a great energy for conversation afterwards.


Unfortunately, too many horror films rely solely on graphic violence or occult themes and wind up being more of a buzzkill than a positive experience. Thankfully, the new adaptation of Stephen King’s hugely popular novel “It” manages to not only be frightful and funny, but finds a lot of heart in its tale of seven outsider kids who fight back against a demonic spirit in the form of a clown that lures children in small-town Maine to their deaths.

Since the novel is more than 1,100 pages long, the filmmakers have wisely chosen to divide the story into two feature films. It’s a decision that enables director Andy Muschietti (“Mama”) to center this first half around the kids’ adventures in 1989, and next year’s conclusion around their present-day battle against the monster as middle-aged adults.

The result is a more streamlined tale than the novel, which jumped between the 1950s and the ‘80s while also serving up heavy doses of the mysterious history of its fictional small town of Derry. Muschietti and screenwriters Cary Fukunaga and Chase Palmer also benefit greatly from a talented cast of mostly unknown young actors, who make the most of this breakthrough opportunity.


The movie opens on two brothers, 13-year-old Bill (Jaden Lieberher) and six-year-old Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), making a paper boat together before Georgie runs out to set it afloat on the street amid a huge rainstorm. Georgie is on his own since Bill is ill, and soon finds himself in trouble when he discovers a creepy clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) lurking in the storm drain into which the boat careens.

Pennywise kills Georgie and drags him into the drain, making him the latest in a long line of children who have disappeared in the burg. Bill believes that Georgie might still be alive, and convinces his group of friends in “The Losers Club” – a group of troubled, funny and well-drawn nerds— to follow him in the quest for the truth.

Along the way, they are joined by Beverly (Sophia Lillis), a beautiful classmate who has a mesmerizing effect on the boys even as she contends with the inappropriate advances of her creepy father. While they also struggle against attacks from a group of vicious bullies led by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), the group comes to realize they are all separately having horrific visions of Pennywise that are rooted in their individual deepest fears.

The only way to find the truth and to survive is to stand together against the evil clown, who entices his victims with red balloons and the promise that they will float through the air if they follow him. Yet even as the Losers engage in a battle royale, they are aware that the town has a history of strange disappearances occurring every 27 years— meaning they still have a fight ahead in their futures.


“It” has some undeniably disturbing moments, both on a human level between Beverly and her father or Henry Bowers and just about anyone, and on the supernatural plane depicting Pennywise’s shape-shifting abilities to conduct pure evil.  But the film also recalls the youthful wonder of “E.T.” and “The Goonies,” as well as the sadder portrayals of adolescence found in “The Breakfast Club” and fellow King adaptation “Stand By Me.”

All of it is set to a terrific score by Benjamin Wallfisch, who gives the king of film composers, John Williams, a run for his money here. Muschietti also thankfully masters the skill of implying as much as he shows of the horror, using quick bursts of gruesome imagery— such as a young boy having his arm bitten in half by Pennywise— without risking exploitation by lingering on its grotesque moments.

The subplot scenes involving Beverly’s father are uncomfortable, but also are handled with an appropriate level of gravity and restraint. Rather than being a drawback to the film, they add a compelling emotional aspect that is truly makes viewers care for her dilemma and those faced by her misfit friends.


This is the kind of movie that truly has it all: some great scares, big laughs (if you can handle crude “your momma” type jokes that these 13 year old boys toss at each other; if not, be forewarned), a compelling young female character who stands out in the great cast of fresh relatable faces.

For all but the easily offended, it’s the perfect movie to have a fun time with both during and in conversation after.

“It” should be appreciated by anyone who wants solid scares depicted with class. Here’s hoping that the second half can find the same magic with its adult cast.