Last weekend experienced a surprising box office phenomenon with the move It, which made $123 million dollars in its opening weekend! It had the highest opening for any horror film ever. If It had opened during the summer it would’ve already become the tenth highest grossing film of the summer. No one could have predicted the wild success of It.
Warning: It should be noted that It is rated a hard R. The kids in the movie often use strong language, and make crude jokes. There are moments of strong gore, and intense horror sequences. It is definitely not appropriate for children. This movie is not for everyone, but Christians should be aware of this film because of its huge appeal in modern culture.
I personally loved this film. It will probably go down as one of my favorite horror movies of all time. The movie is surprisingly hilarious with whip-sharp dialogue. The casting director deserves an award, for perfectly casting each and every child actor who all give fantastic, believable performances. Bill Skarsgård is otherworldly terrifying as Pennywise. The score is wonderfully nuanced. The director creates a tense mood of dread. It is a tense and psychologically terrifying film, though it does include some effective jump scares. Most importantly, It is a well told story with meaningful themes and character arcs. I would recommend It to any Stephen King fan, any horror movie fan, or fans of good films in general, who are not bothered by language or intense sequences.
The movie It would be better understood as a fantasy allegory exploring themes of becoming an adult, childhood abuse and trauma, courage, love, and friendship. Pennywise is a shape-shifting monster that feeds on the fears and flesh of children. Pennywise seemingly is able to peer into the souls of children to discover their deepest fears. He then either shape-shifts into that fear or is able to produce a psychological effect on the children where they see whatever horror he has concocted. In this way, Pennywise is the embodiment of fear. Pennywise gleefully toys with the children’s emotions and fears.
Bill, stalwart leader of the Losers, is traumatized by the grief of his missing younger brother, Georgie. Pennywise preys upon Bill’s grief and sense of responsibility for Georgie. Beverly, the tough but kind girl of the group, is traumatized by her abusive father and the fear of entering womanhood. Wise-cracking Richie, is afraid of clowns and going missing himself. The courageous Mike is traumatized by the death of his parents due to fire. The practical Stanley is afraid of a creepy painting in his father’s study. Smart and sensitive Ben, is afraid of dead children and hypochondriac Eddie is a real germaphobe. All of these fears feel real. I left the film wondering what shape Pennywise would take to terrify me. What am I truly afraid of?
A good horror movie has value because it reveals something about the nature of humanity. They expose deep-seated fears, and provide a canvas for exploring the nature of evil. They accept that at a fundamental level evil does exist. Pennywise is true evil. There are no moral relativists in a horror film.
My favorite scene in It occurs directly after the Losers defeat Pennywise. Bill finds Georgie’s jacket. He breaks down weeping. The other children gather around Bill, embracing him in friendship and love. This touching scene displays the greatest strength and lesson of It, friendship. It is only through the power of friendship and love that they are able to overcome their worst fears and overcome Pennywise.
This movie displays that in community we can overcome many great evils. I was reminded again, that Jesus has called his people to be together. We are commanded to not forsake the gathering of ourselves together; to bear each other’s burdens. We cannot go it alone. The Christian faith is meant to be walked in community. We are at our greatest when we are together. In Christian community we can be a light that holds back the dark. In the face an evil world we have the hope of a savior who will one day vanquish all evil. It reminds us that the world is currently wicked, but also prompts us to look to the Light that has overcome the world.
“Good horror movies accept that at a fundamental level evil does exist. There are no moral relativists in a horror film.”