By Rohan Murti

With bleeding foreheads and clenched teeth, a bunch of seven impressionable teenagers face off against two taller, much stronger peers; each clutching a rock aimed at the two bullies. ‘Rock Fight!’ yells one of them, and what ensues is a bloody exchange of wrath and consequential retaliation, probably the first time in the film where the ‘Loser’s Club’ is seen winning over its fears.

Based on Stephen King’s novel by the same name, Andy Muschietti’s ‘IT’ rides high on this very virtue: the triumph over fear.

The 1990 version of the same movie, with Tommy Lee Wallace at the helm was loathed by the audience, for the ineffective jump-scares and poor CGI.

Twenty seven years later, ‘IT’ induces the kind of fear that does take an enviable effort to generate. Bill, Ben, Richie, Mike, Eddie and Stanley call themselves the ‘Loser’s Club’, as they lead their school lives in the fear of pesky bullies lurking in the corridors and on the streets, led by Henry Bowers (a convincing Nicholas Hamilton) as the abhorrent chieftain. As Georgie, Bill’s younger brother, goes missing, only to be followed by a few more of Derry’s young children, Bill pledges to bring his brother back. The iconic boat scene, a perfect emulation of the former venture, shows Georgie confronting ‘Pennywise’, the dancing clown.

As little Georgie squints through the pattering rain into a sewer, a demonic clown stares back at him. The guttural grunt, the pointed red nose, the protruding teeth and the white balding head: Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is detestable, uncanny and horrifying.

Quite interestingly, the addition of subtle humour remains an important value addition to the plot. Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer as Richie and Eddie bring this aspect to the film as they armour the darker scenes with a lighter, more frivolous tone, bringing a renewed novelty to each jump-scare that follows.

In King’s original story, each of the Losers were portrayed as reticent kids who were easily terrified by the events that haunted them, but an inherent sense of maturity was conspicuous in every kid’s character. The director doesn’t give this a miss as well. As the kids become aware of their own fears and also the fact that the clown thrives on these fears, they themselves decide to face him and avenge the kids of Derry.

This is not to say that ‘IT’ is devoid of any flaws, though. Predictable sequences aren’t abundant, but a handful in number, alongside a few stereotypes to complement the CGI. Some of the build-up for Pennywise’s scenes bank a lot on visual cues to evoke fear, the red balloon floating behind Ben’s back in the library being one such instance.

Despite being weirdly named after a pronoun and resorting to some stereotypical tactics, ‘IT’ classifies as a horrifying venture that doesn’t fail to send chills down the spine. Horrifying, in the true sense of the term for once.

Do watch this, and you’ll float too!