A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that It is based on Stephen King's 1986 novel, which was previously adapted into a 1990 TV miniseries. It's very scary, and not just in a typical gory slasher or jump scare way; it generates actual tingles. (And if you're scared of clowns, it's even worse.) Things get pretty gory; characters are stabbed, impaled, and beaten with rocks and blunt objects. A boy's arm is bitten off, teens shoot guns, and a sheep is killed with a bolt gun. Language is also very strong, with a lot of the swearing coming from young teens; you'll hear "f--k," "s--t," and more. There's lots of bullying, and an abusive father acts in a creepily sexual way toward his teen daughter. You can also expect to hear a fair bit of sex-related talk among the teen characters, though much of it is naïve and meant to be humorous. Teens will be eager to see this one, but it's not for sensitive viewers or the faint of heart.
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What's the story?
In IT, it's 1988 in the town of Derry, Maine, and little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) goes outside in the rain to sail the toy boat that his older brother, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), made for him. The boat goes down the drain. Looking into the sewer, Georgie encounters a scary clown called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and disappears. The following summer, as school lets out, Bill and the other town outcasts -- including pretty Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) and loudmouth Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) -- are beset by bullies. They start to experience terrifying events of their own and notice that other kids in town are disappearing. Thanks to their new friend, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the teens discover that the waves of evil things seem to happen in cycles of 27 years and that all of it leads back to a well in the basement of a creepy old house. Bill vows to stop whatever it is that killed his brother.
Is it any good?
Based on Stephen King's 1986 novel, this terrifying clown movie builds its fright from fear itself. In that respect, it's more aligned with The Goonies, Stand by Me, and Stranger Things than it is with slasher movies or jump scares. Director Andy Muschietti, whose disappointing horror movie Mama never would have indicated anything as good as It, keeps things simple by focusing on the bond between the outcast kids -- there are plenty of scenes that could have been taken right out of any regular summertime coming-of-age movie -- and by using a slick combination of practical and digital effects.
The result feels like it could have come right out of the 1980s. Few of the familiar, overused cliches of recent horror movies are here, and with its effective use of music, editing, set design, choice of angles, and overall rhythms, It generates honest-to-goodness tingles, rather than quick shocks. And Pennywise is an iconic character, based not on a simple fear of death -- he's more than just a Freddy or a Jason -- but on something more primal and unexplainable, a thing of nightmares. This epic It promises that it's only Chapter One, with more terror to come.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about It's violence. What's the difference between the violence committed by bullies or abusive parents and violence by the movie's supernatural forces? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How scary is the movie? Why? What scared you the most? What's the appeal of scary movies?
How are bullies depicted in the movie? Are there adult bullies as well as teen ones? How are they dealt with? Could there be other ways of dealing with them?
How does this movie compare to the book? To the miniseries?
- In theaters: September 8, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 9, 2018
- Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard
- Director: Andres Muschietti
- Studio: New Line Cinema
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Book Characters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence/horror, bloody images, and for language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.