Trust me. It wasn't easy. I'll admit it: I watched quite a bit of it through my fingers because I covered my eyes A LOT. (I get up at 3:30 a.m. I don't need middle-of-the-night thoughts of Pennywise making an appearance in my drain. Life is stressful enough.)
"IT" holds a special place in my heart because a.) I read it in college on a bus trip to Nova Scotia and b.) I was so entrenched in the book for the two-week trip my bus mates tore out the LAST THREE PAGES OF THE BOOK and hid them because I ignored everyone.
(I once read an Anne Lamott book at a Lenny Kravitz concert. I get involved.)
I got the three pages back, but not before everyone had a GOOD LAUGH AT MY EXPENSE.
Also, the ONE time I met Stephen King - I'm his number-one fan, BTW - I happened to bring my hardcover copy of "IT" and he signed it.
It's my most prized literary possession:
Anyway....about the movie.
"IT" is "Goonies" meets "Stranger Things" meets the scary thing you think lives in the basement waiting to get you.
The first in a two-parter (definitely now that "IT" made $117 million over the weekend), IT features a shapeshifting demon in Derry, Maine that usually presents itself as the razor-toothed Pennywise the Clown, ready to tear the town's kids to shreds.
Literally. Opening scene. You've been warned.
"IT" has all the right jumps and scares in all the right places and, happily, not as much gore as I'd imagined. Bill Skarsgard plays a great Pennywise, though I feared Tim Curry's 1990 mini-series version a wee bit more.
But my favorite scenes are the ones that relish in the relationships between the members of the Losers Club, a band of perfectly-cast pre-teens who may fight demons in the sewers below, but face things far more sinister above ground: lecherous fathers, abusive mothers, grieving parents and a pack of bullies that give the punks in "Stand By Me" look bush league.
(PS: "Stand By Me" was based on Stephen King's novella "The Body".)
The most disturbing scene for me was not of Pennywise lurking in all the small, dark spaces, but of depraved teen tormentor Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) torturing chubby new kid Ben Hanscom (an earnest Jeremy Ray Taylor) - because has a vicious appetite for it.
Pennywise may be hiding in the shadows waiting to devour the children, but "ITs" scariest characters are the ones who walk around Derry in broad daylight.