Let’s all be real for a second. The first two glimpses we had of IT thus far have only been teasers. Here we are two months out from the release of the film, and we get our first real trailer, a full two-minutes and twenty-three seconds.
And quite honestly, the hype is starting to get to me.
Falling Back In Love With IT
For those of you just joining us, and who’ve managed to live under a rock for the last seventeen years, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s enduring novel, IT, is getting a reboot. There are some notable changes to the costume, characters, and nature of the monster from the mini-series, which starred Tim Curry as the clown aspect of a monster haunting the small town of Derry, Maine.
There are those of us who spent our childhood terrified of clowns thanks to Tim Curry’s performance in 1990. Then, there are those of us whose love of horror and the weird is encapsulated in this iconic horror character. For those whom this fear is enduring, I feel for you, because the rest of us are going to go see IT in theaters. In the dark. With our closest friends.
IT was both a bright spot and a turning point in my childhood. My twin sister and I were die-hard horror fans. By the age of 14, she and I had been renting–because that was a thing!–and reading horror stories and films that required a parents’ presence. Our parents never censored our reading, and my mom handed over her ID in irritation every time it was asked for.
“I don’t understand why I have to be here,” she would say, “They can watch whatever they want, but if it gives ’em nightmares, they ain’t sleepin’ with me.”
Callous, yes, but I appreciated it. It made me feel in control. The bright spot was that, as a young teen, I knew that at any point I could make my own decisions about what I read and saw, and I never let anyone make those decisions for me. As result, I’m now quite sensitive as an adult to how my step-son feels about some content. We don’t force violent or explicit content on him (we have small living situation and only one TV), yet we don’t actively monitor what he is watching (unless there is sex, of course. Jeez yall.).
My best friend, conversely, was having every step of her existence monitored because it was believed that her “bad behavior” was linked to what I was doing. If anything, her bad behavior was linked to the negative attention she was getting at home. The only time her parents paid any attention to her was when she was doing something wrong. I became the house pariah. If I got to watch horror movies in my house, she didn’t in hers. If I got to go to metal concerts, she didn’t. If my mom bought me a book, and I let her borrow it, her parents took it and gave it circuitously back to my parents, who handed it right back to me with a sideways smirk, more aggravated that they had been brought out into public after six p.m. than by anything someone else thought I had done wrong.
My friend was trying to live through me, and IT became our best-kept secret. IT was one of the few films we thought we got away with. There was little sex, and most of the horror was supernatural. No slicing and dicing (unless you count Henry Bowers). IT the miniseries was largely harmless compared to the novel, which my friend never made it all the way through–at least at the time.
I read the book at an age where many parents would have slapped it out of my hands had they known exactly how graphic it was. As sharply adult as the contents were, I did not put it down. I read it four times, twice in the summer before high school. My sister read through it the first and second time with me, but after I began it the third time, then the fourth time, she put it down in favor of other King novels, The Tommyknockers, Misery, and Carrie. I had read The Eyes of the Dragon in middle school, and I would go on to read The Green Mile, but IT will forever be cemented as my gateway drug to Stephen King.
The turning point was certainly the content. Up to that point, IT was the hardest novel I had ever read (and I had been reading adult novels for a year by then–none of them “age-appropriate”). Though it would be several years before I attempted anymore hardcore adult books (Brian Lumley), I found that I learned something about human nature every time I read it. I learned that all bullies come from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually their home. I learned that our parents can be very dangerous to us. I learned that abuse is not love. I learned that sex is not love–and I probably learned a lot about sex. I learned that some people are born evil, and some are made that way by circumstance and hardship, but that no evil is excusable. I was more afraid of the way Tom treated Bev than I was of the wolfman in the old house. I was more afraid of Bev’s dad than I ever was of Pennywise. I learned that even a bully like Henry Bowers was nothing compared to the serial killer in the making that was Patrick Hocksetter, and I learned how satisfying it can be when a truly bad character gets what is coming to him. I learned about the soul-crushing grief of a losing a child. Thanks to IT, I learned about Lovecraft’s weird tale before I had ever even heard his name, and that set the stage for further reading, which has led me to this point in life, where everything we touch seems to be connected to Ol’ Howard in some way, and though I was not truly introduced to Lovecraft through King–I have Brian Lumley to thank for that pleasure–the essence of Lovecraft’s danger from the Outside is tangible in IT.
I learned a lot when I read that novel, and like the Losers Club, I will say that I learned far too much about life, sex, and fear, and I learned it far too fast.
Our first two introductions to Andrés Muschietti’s take on this much-debated favorite were teasers. Each of them featured iconic scenes that those who favored both the miniseries and the novel would have recognized: Georgie’s end, and the venture into the sewer in the Barrens. Who could have guessed that a clown emerging from inside a sewer drain could have come to represent so much fear and anxiety when King wrote it? Who even gave that any consideration? Up until IT, I was just afraid of that flatworm from season two of The X Files. Who could have thought that it could be so much more frightening than just a campy clown with a balloon? Bill Skarsgard thought so, and his portrayal of Pennywise thus far has left nay-sayers in dismay and die-hards in confusion. The departure of the campy Pennywise is having the same effect the departure of campy Batman did, and not everyone is pleased. I am not one of those people.
The new Pennywise is much closer to the novel version, with a dingy silver suit and jester’s ruff. He’s less loquacious than Tim Curry’s character. The Pennywise of the novel had always disappointed me a little because he was nothing like Tim Curry, but I think ol’ Pennywise is about to be redeemed. The makeup is far more severe. I love those bucked teeth! I love that crazy hair! I love how gross he gets in standing water! There was never a hair out of place on Tim Curry’s head at any time, but Bill gets down and dirty like the filthy monster that he is!–not Bill himself, duh you guys. Have you all seen Bill Skarsard? Bill’s hot!
The scene in which Pennywise kills Georgie is important to the entire story for two reasons: 1) it gives Bill the motivation he needs to unite the Loser’s Club against the monster stalking Derry; 2) the monster uses Georgie a number of times to lure Bill into a trap. Like the novel and the miniseries, Bill is going to have a large part to play in Derry’s future.
Beverly is going to be an interesting character from what I can see in the trailer. It looks like Bev and Bill have a lot of chemistry, and that would not really be terribly off base. Bev and Bill had chemistry in the novel as well. I had more to add to that, but I’m afraid I’ll divulge too much of what’s to come. Read the novel. There are only a few places where you will slightly regret this single life choice.
Bev is not the only female character Pennywise targeted in either the miniseries or the novel, but Bev’s character was unique. Her father abused her mercilessly. It’s almost as if Bev were being groomed for Pennywise, weakened, but Bev surprised It. She fought back. I have more to add to this as well, but again, it may be giving too much plot away for those who haven’t read the novel. So go read the novel!
In each instance in the trailer, Pennywise can be seen targeting specific Losers, not as a group. Not only does this increase the tension for each of the flashes of scene presented, Pennywise is at It’s most frightening when It targets a lone child. Remember in the miniseries when Pennywise threatened Bev in her bathroom. It only sent her a nasty “love note” in the drain, and disappeared as quickly as her father approached. Pennywise’s true power lays in sneak attacks, scare tactics, and a long end game. Pennywise has no power over the average human adult, and the average human adult is only too used to letting things slip under the radar as long as they are not themselves affected. The good people of Derry, as we see in many of the trailer’s scenes, and as Bill asserts, are content to let the matter drop, even as their own children start to disappear.
All in all, I think this trailer, combined with the teasers, has been most enlightening. According to The Verge, there is going to be a lot that derails from the novel and the miniseries, and that is totally fine. Remember that the miniseries was IT Lite, a shallow, bare-bones representation of the book, focused more on giving you the willies about clowns than remaining true to the unique, fully-flensed, robust characters of King’s novel. “The film will also add plot beats and scenes that don’t appear in either the novel or miniseries. It will, however, still use the town of Derry to help illustrate just how deep Pennywise’s influence runs,” writes
Not sure how I feel about referring to the main villain as “Pennywise” considering that was just one of It’s many aspects. Also I’m not too keen on the film setting, but that’s a hold over for nostalgia. In the novel, the Losers grew up in the 50s, and were in their thirties during the adult scenes, which were set in the mid 1980s. Director Andrés Muschietti is giving the story a more contemporary feel, having the Losers grow up in the 1980s, making them my age for the adult plot. This might infuse the story with new blood, and I will more than likely be able to identify with the characters in the story–I assume. Granted, I never had any trouble identifying with the children in the novel despite a 30 year age difference.
I cannot wait to see how this pans out, and I can’t believe we have to wait until September.
Success or Failure: The Nature of a Stephen King Novel
Stephen King’s novels are defined by their characters. No single King novel adaptation has been worth its salt if it is anything but driven by the characters that King worked his bum off to create. This is arguably why the original IT fell a smidge short as a King adaptation, and this where others of his novels excelled, such as the film adaptation of The Green Mile, which adhered close to the plot of the novels and focused its energy on the characters of the novel, which might have been easier than, say, The Langoliers, or IT due to it’s setting. It’s hard not to concentrate on a single aspect of cinema when almost the entire story is set in a single cell block. This is going to be a major challenge for Nikolaj Arcel and his cast as they navigate and condense the boundless realm of The Dark Tower.
Whatever Andrés Muschietti has in mind for the film, it’s success or failure will hinge on his ability to bring not only the monster to life, but the children as well. Stephen King’s cast of characters represented the power of acting in numbers to effect real change. The Losers learned that family and love are not always bonds of blood. There are going to be scenes in the novel that illustrated this that will never see the silver screen. There are also going to be scenes whose lessons were clear in the novel, but were so disturbing in nature that I certainly never want to see them brought to the screen. The genius of King is what he does to the psyche. The genius of those who adapt his works is doing the same thing with fewer child murders. Muschietti will have to find some other way to fill in those gaps for scenes that won’t make it past the FCC.
It cannot be denied that if this film strives to only be a monster movie, it will fail. IT was not a novel about a scary clown. IT was a novel of courage, vengeance, love, and resistance. The monster was merely a universal force to be reckoned with. The true terrors of Derry were bullies who went unchecked; apathetic, abusive, and overprotective parents; and the dreary malignancy that settles on small towns like Derry; and no matter how far we run away from the monsters of our childhood, they have a horrifying way of dragging us back.
I am wholeheartedly looking forward to the new IT. Whether it lives up to the reputation the film is building for itself remains to be seen.
For now, though, we float on.