It | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


The creepy-clown film is a mash-up of comedy and horror that isn’t very scary


A component of being successfully scared at the movies is the anticipation of it. But perhaps the hyped run-up to It — and all its attendant history of Stephen King’s 1986 novel, the 1990 TV mini-series and the now-clichéd “killer clown” trope — has expended all that keyed-up energy. Andy Muschietti’s film has an assortment of entertaining features, but it’s not likely to scare many viewers.

In a small Maine town in the late 1980s, children are disappearing. We see that a creepy clown who lives in the sewer is taking them, but the townsfolk remain clueless. Pursuing the mystery is a self-described group of tween “losers” who uncover the town’s dark secrets and take on the clown. What transpires is a mash-up of a 1980s-style kiddie-quest film with a standard spooker. No trope of either genre has been left behind, whether it’s the goofy nerd kid on a bike, or the spooky paintings that move.

I liked the look of the clown, but on screen, he seemed more ridiculous than scary. A preview audience responded favorably to expected jump-out scares and, most vociferously, to an imperiled house cat. (You can depict kids getting brutalized and nobody blinks, but aim just one gun at a cat …)

The kids generated some laughs, though you couldn’t ask for a more stereotypical bunch: fat kid, Jewish kid, African-American orphan, nervous kid, stuttering kid, and a girl. (The girl is supposed to be weird, but she’s beautiful, centered, brave, kind and comfortable hanging out in her underwear, and thus is simply a fantasy projection. Real weird girls need to demand equal time in these movies.)

Sometimes It works as a coming-of-age movie, if you can forgive the familiarity, and it stretches tenuously to marry the supernatural horror to the reality of a difficult adolescence. But wait — the clown isn’t a manifestation of free-floating fears, but rather an actual killer that turns up every 27 years, because …? Note: This film is only Part 1; presumably Part 2 will mirror the book, in which the now-grown-up kids reunite 27 years later to deal with this mess again.