Preview: IT

Do you like clowns? Because this clown likes you.
And he wants to eat your face…

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I don’t write previews all that often, mainly because each one is eventually rendered pointless. Exceptions do come along now and then, but the prerequisite has always been the same: the film in question has to have me pretty damn excited. With Blade Runner 2049 already forcing my hand a few months back, I have a feeling 2017 is set to oblige more often than not…

Next in line is Stephen King’s IT, a supernatural horror based on the epic 1986 novel of the same name, which I had the crazy idea to tackle thirteen or so years ago during my mid-teens (I had a thing for good horror back then)…

The plot follows a group of kids (later adults) from the fictional small town of Derry, Maine, who find themselves being stalked by an unexplained entity that regularly takes the form of a happy-go-lucky clown, known as Pennywise. And by happy-go-lucky, I of course mean a murderous sewer-dwelling, limb-tearing, mind-raping demon clown, known as Pennywise.

On the surface, as with most horrors, it’s a straight up battle for mental and physical survival in the face of a supernatural unknown. The deeper you dig, however, the more of King’s traditional, altogether unnerving themes you uncover. Despite the suspect ending, the author’s monumental world building, character development, and generally creepy-as-fuck vibes have stayed with me throughout the years to the point where I still regularly recommend the book, despite not having read it since. And that’s why I’m so excited. Whereas your average horror is chock full of the same old tropes and writing clichés, IT‘s source material is already certified as both absolutely outstanding and completely original.

A screen adaptation inevitably followed back in 1990, but unfortunately, as with many of King’s novels adapted around that time, it was of the low budget mini-series/made-for-television variety, and therefore hasn’t aged well. Like many other King fans, I have an assortment of (now comically) terrifying memories centred around Tim Curry’s Pennywise, but the rest of the film is a three-hour slog with little tension and incredibly dated special effects. If the new trailer already has you itching for a bit of Pennywise then by all means give it a go, but if it’s between that and reading the novel as a means of preparation, then it’s no contest.

So, what can we expect from director Andrés Muschietti’s upcoming, two-part big screen version (this one’s more of a coming of age tale, the second will focus on the adults)? Well, the trailer up there is incredibly promising, capturing the merry-turned-claustrophobic small town feel that feeds the darker, haunting behind-the-scenes nature of the story. Benjamin Wallfisch’s synthesized clown-laugh-like score stands out immediately as one aspect to look forward to, as does the presence of King’s rich, unconventional world. There’s an ensemble of kids as the main protagonists (this was long before Stranger Things, for which King’s work was of course a huge influence), faced down by an antagonist who’s essentially revealed almost immediately, but whose frightening power and unstoppable nature stems from its ability to evolve beyond the realms of human comprehension and reason, coupled with its seeming lack of obvious motive.

When it was announced last year that original writer/director Cory Fukunaga had dropped out, I was more than a little gutted. The first season of True Detective, of which he helmed all eight episodes, was nothing short of a masterpiece of chilling tension, so having him miss out here felt like a fairly large setback from a technical standpoint (though I wasn’t crazy about the sweeping changes he’d apparently made to the dates and character names associated with the original story).

Muschietti is listed as even more of an up-and-comer, and although I wasn’t the biggest fan of 2013’s Mama, it’s undoubtedly a solid debut on which to build. If the trailer’s anything to go by then he’s certainly on the right track, while the casting (Bill Skarsgård) and design of Pennywise are already inspiring plenty of positive internet chatter early on.

Slated for release this September, IT has the potential to be the horrible highlight of 2017. Until then, keep floating…

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