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Author: Maisy Armstrong, Student Technology Consultant

I remember it all very clearly. I was freshly into my junior year of high school, sitting in a dark theater with my brother, Ryan. We both feigned calmness, but I could feel my mouth go dry as we sat down. “IT” (2017) was the first horror movie that I’d ever watched in theaters. I loved every single second. Walking out of the theater, I felt like I had watched more than a horror movie, but rather an outstanding coming-of-age film. 

 “IT” follows a troupe of kids bonded over the frightening occurrences taking place in their hometown of Derry, Maine. When they discover that a shape-shifting clown is behind kidnapping and murders in their city, they must overcome their fears to defeat this haunting evil. 

 I believe that there are two central elements that drive the success of “IT”. The first is the scare factor that the movie offers. Pennywise and the other formidable nightmares he conjures are frightening elements to audiences of all ages. Unsurprisingly, this is the foundation of a great horror movie. Arguably just as important to the film’s triumph are the characterizations of the leads. The protagonists elevate “IT” from a typical horror film to a compelling growth narrative. 

The film centers on seven main characters. Each character exemplifies a different archetype, some defined by their humor, others by their resilience, and others by their intelligence. With seven kids on screen, viewers can likely identify a character that shares their own fears and personifies pieces of their childhood.  

Let’s zero in on one character. A scrawny kid with a lisp, Bill is a perfect example of the awkward early teenage years. Bill is a victim of circumstance at the beginning of the movie. Having lost his brother to the evil terrorizing Derry, he struggles to combat his loneliness and confusion. Bill makes mistakes and misjudgements in his admirable search for his brother. Bill’s sometimes erratic actions compel the audience to wonder: What lengths would loss of familial love drive me to? What kind of bravery could I muster if I were in Bill’s shoes? 

By the end of the movie, Bill is respected as the courageous leader of the young pack. His lisp noticeably softens, he overcomes his fear of the clown, and garners the friendship of the six other protagonists. The audience can admire the growth of a young kid lost at the beginning of the movie and assured by the conclusion. 

The horrors that the kids face drive impressive growth in ways inaccessible to other types of coming-of-age films. “IT” successfully captures the nostalgia of early friendships and the power of overcoming your childhood fears. Though guided by a narrative of horror, the movie is punctuated with moments that audiences can lovingly look back on from first kisses to biking down neighborhood lanes. To quote another work by Steven King: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve,” (Stand By Me, 1986).