In Stephen King’s novel IT, the children of the small US town of Derry, Maine are terrorised and killed by an entity that takes the form of a plethora of nightmarish creatures, primarily that of Pennywise the clown. After tragedy hits close to home, Bill Denbrough and his group of fellow outcast friends – known as ‘the Losers’ Club’ – rally together to put their worst fears aside in the hope of bringing down the monster for good.
In the story, ‘It’ returns to Derry to every 27-years. IT’s 2017 release will come 27-years after it was first adapted for screens in 1990. Spooky coincidence or mighty clever marketing? Either way, IT is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated movie events of this year. But just why should we all be floating down to the cinema on the 8th September?
I understand that film trailers can often be very misleading. Needless to say, they are there to put arses in seats when release day comes around. However, they can sometimes lure us into re-mortgaging our house for a ticket before leaving us incomprehensibly disappointed when we realise they’ve chucked all the best bits in the trailer – yes, we’re looking at you Adam Sandler. Horror films are an interesting one, though, as they – more so than any other genre – have the room to play around with how they market themselves and still be effective. Ironically, the most famous and impressive of these was the viral campaign deployed by the Production folk behind The Blair Witch Project, at a time before viral videos and social media were even a thing.
IT follows the more generic trailer root, but it has also fully utilised Social Media platforms to the point where I shudder every time I see the red balloon emoji. It’s absolutely everywhere, which, aside from being terribly unfortunate for Coulrophobes, results in one incredibly powerful tool that any film always hopes to bank on: word of mouth. People talk. FACT. And what better way to get the chat going by popping up on the place where people talk most: Social Media.
Now, to the trailer itself. People can over-analyse it until the cows come home. I recently saw one tweet about how the Lego set we see for a split second in the trailer wouldn’t have been released until years after the time the film is set. Of course I retweeted it. But all nit-picking aside, the trailer is genuinely creepy. There is a distinct lack of Pennywise throughout which I for one very much welcome. As a result, you get the impression that the best scares have been left lurking in the darkness of the cinema screen, awaiting our arrival next Friday. The eerie, screeching chords that echo throughout are very Texas Chainsaw (a timely homage to the late, great Tobe Hooper), and the trailer primarily shows those fans of the original what they already know and expect. This suggests that IT also still retains a sense of the unexpected which, for horror, is always a good thing.
One aspect that has been somewhat overlooked by most, but for me is one of the most intriguing, is the representation of Derry’s adult characters. In the 1990 original, the town’s adults were either distinctly absent, completely oblivious, or just downright detestable. The trailer suggests that this time round, they have a more involved, but altogether more unnerving role to play.
A rare instance where a remake feels appropriate
It’s not very often that I say a film could do with a makeover, let alone one from the horror genre. Almost all attempts at a horror remake over the years have been categorical failures. There must be something in the water in Hollywood, because for some reason, time and again, there seems to be this unwarranted need to either give backstories to your favourite villains, English language-up a foreign classic, or try – and fail – to recreate the same fear and paranoia as the original in the most artificially way possible which, quite frankly, is neither wanted, nor possible.
With IT, however, there is certainly a case – in my humble opinion, of course – for a reboot; and one that has the potential to surpass its 1990 original. In the build-up to IT’s release, I re-visited the Tommy Lee Wallace directed two-part miniseries of 27-years ago. Ok, so I’ll be eating my hat if 2017 Pennywise betters 1990’s one. Why? Because Tim Curry, that’s why! Suitably hilarious and terrifying in equal measure as the demonic clown, Curry is a first-class honours graduate from the Freddy Krueger school of horror movie monster. The playful, wise-cracking child murderer (a sentence I never thought I’d ever say) is far and away the best thing about Wallace’s film, and will take some turn from Bill Skarsgård to trump.
The rest, however, seems fair game. The acting in the original is at times, to put it kindly, scarily wooden. The child actors are significantly more impressive than their adult counterparts, but without the eccentric Curry pulling the strings, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this was a softcore porn b-movie with all the good bits taken out. Similarly, the pacing of the 1990 version is all off. Despite being a two-parter, the film spends far too long bringing our heroes back to Derry, giving us details of careers and relationships we don’t ever really care about. Rumour has it the 2017 version will also have two instalments; however, the trailer suggests we’ll be sticking with the young’uns for now, which is certainly a good thing – after all, a manic clown chasing children is infinitely more disturbing than a manic clown chasing a librarian, a writer, or architect.
Talented young cast
On paper, IT boasts a pretty impressive cast of young, talented blood. Of the 1990’s Losers’ Club, only Seth Green has gone on to bigger and (arguably) better. Jonathan Brandis may well have followed Green had his life not been tragically cut short. The fate of Brandis certainty gives an added poignancy to the character of Bill, but given his breakout performance in Jeff Nichols’ criminally underrated Midnight Special (and later in The Book of Henry), Jaeden Lieberher has my full backing as the unofficial leader of Losers.
Taking the Richie Tozier reigns from Green is Stranger Things’ leading man Finn Wolfhard. In the original, Tozier was the Losers’ Club funny man, so here’s hoping Wolfhard can ramp up the comedy to Eleven (sorry) this time round, too. The rest are made up of relative unknowns, but early teaser clips indicate a strong chemistry and natural rapport between them, as well as a simultaneously cute and creepy Jackson Robert Scott as Georgie; so, you know, signs look good.
Of everyone, however, most eyes will be firmly on the man behind the make-up and balloons, Bill Skarsgård (son of Stellan, younger brother of Alexander). With early reports attaching the Poulters and Mendelsohns of this world to the role, pressure has been building on the young Swede’s shoulders since he was cast as the infamous villain in the summer of 2016. While he might not be able to out-clown Curry, Skarsgård has spoken on record about the need to try and do something different with the role. And while early snippets suggest there’ll be more fear than funny, you can be sure there’ll be menace and malice in abundance.
In case you weren’t already aware, this blogger is gearing up excitedly for a trip back to Derry for a date with evil – which probably says more about me than anything. Let’s hope, however, that all this hype doesn’t go down the drain. On second thoughts, maybe we do…