IT (2017): ‘Horror or Comedy, Pennywise?’ – A Film Review


Halloween, and by extension October, has always been the time for horror films. Summer may have the big action blockbusters and Christmas may have the sweet, or not so sweet, Christmas films, but All Hallow’s Eve is Horror. IT (1990) was a Stephen King adaptation made for TV that gained a cult following perhaps in part due to Tim Curry’s performance as the clown – Pennywise. The hilarious and scary tone centred round the fear of clowns made for an offbeat film, that also had its fair share of the Stephen King characters thrown in for good measure. Recently horror films have gone the way of ghosts with Paranormal Activity, or remakes like Evil Dead (2013). Perhaps looking back to this cult hit was inevitable but much like the Ghostbusters (2016) remake, audiences were skeptical.




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So Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) here takes on a more old fashioned look and embodies a darker and grittier tone. Though we don’t hold back on his involvement, he doesn’t take the film in a particularly funny direction deliberately. Bill Skarsgård’s performance as pennywise focuses on a quirky clown with a very serious agenda. This confuses the tone somewhat and is one of the biggest departures from the original film. For example, there is a moment where Pennywise takes on a dance as a moment of taunting. Played straight with a seriously intent look on his face this just looks silly; further made problematic by the CGI face placed on his body. It is one of many truly hilarious moments that were meant to be seriously scary. Tim Curry had many similar moments but through his sheer enjoyment and not taking it too seriously they felt more appropriately funny and scary. This actually seems to be something that extends to many of the other moments in the film where other characters are meant to scare you – cleaning blood music video for example. This isn’t made any better by a narrative that feels straight out of A Nightmare on Elm Street (see below). (Adding to the humour of this they had even made a nod to the film by depicting that it was on at a cinema.) Though again, Freddy Krueger, obviously and darkly, had a lot of fun with what he was doing.

Horror or Rom Com?

The flip side of this coin is the human side of the story. The film is a horror about Pennywise the clown but it is also about a group of children. The child characters are going through a lot and are going through a rite of passage helped by overcoming their fears via Pennywise; but also are finding friendships and discovering romance. In fact, IT (2017) would have worked a lot better as a romantic comedy, without Pennywise or the rest of his circus. The child actors put in wonderful performances and are very likeable in their respective roles – even if a bit stereotypical. Sometimes the humour feels above their age but it keeps the film in line with the 18 certificate, which is refreshing. The central romance between the characters lends itself to friction and attraction in a very genuine way. The children’s stories and characterisations are probably the strongest aspects of the film.



IT (2017) is a film that works but is almost confused in its tone. Likeable for all the wrong reasons, not a horror but a romantic comedy or horror comedy. The Stephen King trademarks are quite dominant and almost cliché at this point – it’s a lot like Stand By Me. Despite the unintentional humour this film makes for an entertaining film with strong characters. IT (1990) knew itself a lot more than IT (2017), it played the film as a tongue in cheek horror and has earnt that cult status. Unsure what it wants to be, IT (2017) definitely achieves a grander status of cinema but ultimately falls short of its aims. It could yet be one of the best mistakes out there.

A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below for any who wish to see one.



Pennywise is the terror of a town, terrorising children in particular and having caused many deaths including Georgie Denbrough. Almost seeming like hallucinations (like the dreams of A Nightmare on Elm Street), Pennywise scares Ben Denbrough and his friends. With the parents largely ignoring them it is up to the children to track down Pennywise and stop him from killing more children.


Films Mentioned

Evil Dead (d. Fede Alvarez USA 2013)

Ghostbusters (d. Paul Feig USA 2016)

IT (d. Tommy Lee-Wallace USA/Canada 1990)

IT (d. Andy Muschietti USA/Canada 2017)

Paranormal Activity (d. Oren Peli USA 2007)

Stand By Me (d. Rob Reiner USA 1986)


Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Andy Muschietti

Interview with Cast

Interview with Bill Skasgård

Behind the Scenes

Easter Eggs

Pennywise Dance

Meme Me

Everything you wanted to know about IT (2017)

Pennywise Site

Aha Aha Aha


If you liked this…

Evil Dead (2013) A Film Review

Ghostbusters (2016) A Film Review

Carrie (2013) A Film Review

This is the End (2013) A Film Review


This was an analytical review of….


IT (d. Andy Muschietti USA/Canada 2017)

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