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Movie review: Stephen King’s “It” makes dark return

What better way to deliver an effective scary movie than to grant individualized fear with only one character? In theaters on Sept. 8, director Andrés Muschietti’s most recent film adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel “It” plays off the ambiguousness of its own title, straying from its classic clown roots to unleash a shapeshifting monster, covering all phobias on the spectrum and ensuring maximum audience reaction.

Much like its 1990 predecessor, “It” is the story of the demon clown Pennywise, the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) and his child hunt in the town of Derry, Maine, where missing posters are just sidewalk litter and kids learn to never stay out past 7 p.m. This creates a ragtag group of 12 year olds known as “the Losers’ Club,” brought together by all forces of evil — both human and inhuman — to team up in order to defeat the beast and end the fear. More so than its earlier adaptations, this remake stays more true to the novel it’s based on, incorporating important backstory elements and details used to project it into its planned sequel.

Unlike the Pennywise made famous by Tim Curry, who relied on his vocal delivery and campy, clowny demeanor to impact the screen, Skarsgard is a darker, more physically terrifying presence. Instead of haunting one-liners, he uses not only a fevered stare, but about four rows of the sharpest teeth CGI can provide. This produced a much quicker, guttural response from the audience, employing a visual gauntlet of terrifying images and curdled screams.

The driving force of the horror in “It” lies upon a cornerstone of the genre: the jump scare. Muschietti packs enough heart-stopping scares in this two-hour movie to cause an arrhythmia in even the healthiest of viewers, sometimes dragging the suspense for several minutes at a time, just waiting to unleash the next fear-mongering sequence. Thankfully, he cuts the constant apprehension with heavy doses of comic relief, mostly delivered by Richie (Finn Wolfhard) and Eddie (Jack Dylan Glazer) in the form of F-bombs and jokes with your mother, sister and even your dad on the receiving end.

Due to the chosen trope of molding to each individual character’s fear –– and there are a decent amount of characters –– there is little time to delve too deeply into anyone’s particular psyche. The main chunks of retrospective are spent on Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), the leader of the group, and Beverly (Sophia Lillis), the lone girl of the pack. Although a surface-level version of “everybody’s got problems” is presented, there is no time for emotional and psychological development of these problems with this creepy clown running amuck.

In an era living off dime-a-dozen ghost flicks, with buckets of blood and loud noises substituting for actual scares, even a somewhat scattered plot doesn’t subtract from the tense atmosphere and overall sensation the viewer is set in. It makes an incredibly interactive and extremely entertaining horror movie, one sure to make you laugh, scream and double check under your seat.

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