R16: Violence, offensive language and horror
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.
It is an American horror film based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel of the same name.
In a small town in Maine in the summer of 1989, a group of outcast teenagers discover that an evil supernatural clown named Pennywise is responsible for kidnapping and murdering numerous children in the town. The friends who wryly dub themselves the ‘Losers’ Club’ are led by Bill, a boy in his early teens whose little brother was taken by the clown. Bill, Beverly, Stan, Eddie, Ben, Richie and Mike resolve to solve the case of the missing children, all the while trying to avoid the high school bullies, who cruise around town terrorising their victims.
Date registered: 04/08/2017
The film has artfully been constructed to be as frightening as possible for the viewer. Pennywise has a large forehead and strange mouth which he is able to stretch and extend, revealing many rows of very sharp teeth. He moves in unnatural ways and has supernatural powers – he is able to adopt the physical characteristics of any person or object he chooses. Each of the friends endures a terrifying encounter with Pennywise.
There are depictions of Pennywise holding disembodied limbs with blood around his mouth, confirming that he murders the children and eats them. There are images of dead and decaying zombie type creatures, disembodied voices, jump scares and an effective soundtrack which amplifies the effect on the viewer.
Pennywise is a killer – he is shown killing Georgie, Bill’s little brother. Georgie is shown floating a homemade paper sailboat in the gutters during a rainstorm. He follows the boat happily, however despairs when the boat floats down the open drain. He peers in to find Pennywise holding the boat. After Georgie decides to leave, Pennywise opens his mouth to reveal his many teeth, and bites Georgie’s arm off to the shoulder. Georgie crawls across the road, but Pennywise extends his arm and pulls him down the drain.
Pennywise also tries to kill each member of the Losers’ Club and terrorises them with visions of missing children, some of whom are mangled and decomposing. At one point a member of the Losers’ Club shoots a boy with a bolt gun – this is quite shocking.
Characters also commit violence and cruelty against each other. It is strongly suggested that Beverly is the victim of sexual abuse. Henry, the town bully, and his friends are cruel to those who they regard hold a lower social status than them. Their bullying is particularly cruel; for example, Henry carves his initials into Ben’s stomach with a knife. One of the characters murders his own father by pressing a switchblade against his sleeping father’s neck; the boy’s father clutches at his neck and bleeds profusely before dying.
The publication contains limited use of highly offensive language. The inclusion of this language in the film supports the need for a restriction as it is likely to inure younger viewers, especially given its use by teenage characters.
It is an effective horror film. It is well-made and visually striking. The frequent images of violence, gore and horror directed at children and young teenage characters are likely to be distressing and disturbing to children and younger teenagers. The supernatural theme and depictions of children being terrorised by monsters are likely to frighten and disturb younger viewers who may not instinctively know that such things do not exist. Adults and older teens are considered more likely to be able to put the images and themes of the film into the context of the story and treatment. Therefore, the film is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 16 years.