The IT Factor
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Let’s be honest. Nobody likes clowns, especially after creepy clowns terrorized America’s neighborhoods throughout most of last October. Why clowns though? There’s just something about them that’s deeply unsettling. The childish innocence and colorful clothes only mask a regular, normal person––but, the idea that there could be something sinister beneath the smile is what chills people to the bone. This fascination and fear of clowns really kickstarted after Stephen King’s 1986 novel IT. It traumatized a generation and changed the face of the horror genre forever.
IT is the story of a shapeshifting creature dwelling in the storm drains beneath the town of Derry, Maine. It lures people, mostly young children, to their deaths by taking the form of whatever scares them most. It most often takes the form of a clown and calls itself Pennywise. The fear drives victims into insanity, making them easy targets for It. The plot follows Bill Denbrough, who lost his little brother to It, and his friends, “The Losers Club,” as they try to destroy the evil that lurks underneath their town.
The novel itself is a monster, spanning 1,138 pages and two separate time periods. The first half of the story shows the children subduing It in the 1960s and the second half shows them returning to Derry thirty years later to destroy It once and for all. Due to the sheer size of the novel, it’s no easy feat to adapt into a movie.
An attempt was made in 1990 to break the story into two installments, totalling about four hours altogether. IT aired on ABC over the course of two nights. The miniseries starred Tim Curry as the title character and was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, who had brought other Stephen King creations such as Carrie to life. As a made-for-TV movie, many subplots from the book had to be abandoned, particularly the moments that were critical to developing the large cast of characters. Wallace described these cuts, or “casualties of war,” as disappointing but necessary to get the core of the story across.
A terrifying new trailer for IT was released on Wednesday, March 29 for the feature film, set to debut in September. Right away, it’s clear this new movie will be taking a sleeker approach to the beloved story. Capitalizing on the recent success of nostalgic horror––the new cast, boasting Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as one of the Losers––this version will be focusing only on the first half of the story set in 1989. A second installment is planned and will obviously be set in modern times. The great thing about IT is that it’s truly timeless. It adapts well to any time period and this can really help to resonate with the audience if they see familiarity on the screen.
Hopefully with more time (and money) on their hands, the new film will be able to deliver on some of the things the 1990 miniseries could not, while still keeping close to the central story. The 1990 version was lacking serious character development for the Losers and had to dial back on almost all of the blood and guts featured in the novel. Fortunately, the trailer looks promising. An R rating should also help allow this movie to be the true horror frenzy it was always meant to be.
What makes IT stand out amongst other horror films is the fact that the creature is so otherworldly. The children are not battling a human serial killer like Hannibal Lector, nor are they facing an amoral monstrosity like in Alien. It’s not even solidly supernatural, like the recent rash of generic “found footage” of paranormal films. IT is soul shakingly terrifying because It evolves, because It builds on every fear and insecurity. It’s a story that functions much like its monster, something powerful and difficult to achieve.
All that can be done now is to wait. Wait for September to see the menacing Pennywise dance across the big screen and into the nightmares of a new generation. And hope that IT will be able to delight and terrify the way horror movies should.