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Monday, September 18, 2017


The movie’s real strength lies in the excellent ensemble performance of the young cast. (Review by Patrick Compton – 7)

Clowns and red balloons symbolise the happier moments of childhood, but the role they play in this adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel suggests fear and loathing.

This is the second King movie to land in Durban this month (after The Dark Tower) and this Andres Muschietti-helmed film treads familiar King terrain concerning the vulnerabilities of childhood. While there is a strong horror element, the deeper theme is really about the fear of being bullied, sexually abused and picked on. Adults barely feature except as sources of unease, destructive power relations and exploitation.

In a stunning opening sequence we watch a young boy running after his toy yacht sailing down the street in the pouring rain. The boat eventually disappears down a stormwater drain and as he leans down to retrieve it, he sees a clown gazing up at him with a sinister smile, boat in hand. The movie, which overstays its welcome at 135 minutes, never improves on this simple scene, which carries all the force of a vivid nightmare.

The story is set in familiar King territory, a small town in Maine, USA. The focus is on a group of kids who are each outsiders. Regarded as “losers” by the community, they all suffer the slings and arrows of social ostracism. Whether it’s being overweight, having a stutter or being abused at home, these children are especially vulnerable to selfish adults and violent bullies.

Running parallel with this streak of naturalism is the supernatural horror element that grows more prominent as the movie progresses. The children are forced to battle a terrifying, leering clown – Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) – living in the dark recesses of the town’s sewage system. One of the group, the chubby Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), researches the town’s past and discovers that there is an unspoken history of children disappearing in mysterious circumstances.

Essentially It is a parable about growing up. The horror element is, of course, the popular calling card, but the shock effects become increasingly formulaic and therefore less effective. The target audience may demur, but the movie’s real strength lies in the excellent ensemble performance of the young cast who work with a script that thankfully includes a number of humorous moments to leaven all the horror-melodrama.

It is on wide release in Durban - Patrick Compton