The following contains minor spoilers for IT.
Andy Muschietti’s adaption of Stephen King’s IT has been hailed as a triumph for the horror genre. IT pushed the boundaries of horror with terrifying moments, shows graphic violence against children, all while balancing heartfelt scenes with genuine emotion. Pennywise “The Dancing Clown” is the main villain of King’s story and while he is petrifying, the real horror in this film comes in the forms of humanity.
Pennywise is unearthly. From his reptilian appearance to unsettling mannerisms; Pennywise isn’t based in reality. These attributes don’t take away from his frightening and terrorizing presence. Anytime Pennywise is on screen, audiences are gripping their armrests but he isn’t the most terrifying villain on screen. The human characters, the Loser’s Club aside, are the most frightening aspect of Muschietti’s IT.
The bullies. Beverly’s father. Eddie’s mom. The local pharmacist, who feels more like Richard Donner than a helpful medical professional. These characters bring the true terror to Muschietti’s adaptation. Off-screen, humanity continues to show that there are no limits when it comes to being horrific. We see this in our news headlines daily; horror and fear have become real-life events. Muschietti explores realistic terror within IT beyond the creepy smile of Pennywise.
Muschietti tells this story from the viewpoint of children but the adults play a pivotal role. Beverly’s father embodies terror, he is the worst of the worst. Beverly has to face her greatest fear on a daily basis, so when Pennywise finally kidnaps her, he is unable to terrorize her. The relationship between Beverly and her father is hard to watch on screen but showing these scenes sheds a light on these real-life horrors happening to children.
The bullies that terrorize the Loser’s club may seem extreme and over the top but compared them to Internet trolls leaving death threats in YouTube comments or popular kids terrorizing outsiders in school hallways. Bullies are even more prominent and destructive in 2017. This real-life horror has to be shown on screen and show what children face on a daily basis. It’s not as easy as walking away or asking them to stop; children can be evil to one another, with no regrets. This type of terror helps to ground this mystical horror film in reality. These bullies parallel real-life individuals and many of us see ourselves within the Loser’s Club, trying to fight back.
While Pennywise is lurking in the sewers of Derry, the true-terror is above the streets.