The internet has gone gonzo for director Andrés Muschietti’s (Mama) IT trailer, viewing the Stephen King adaptation trailer 197 million times in just 24 hours, enough to topple the previous trailer view king, The Fate of the Furious. The trailer also scared up an army of angry professional clowns who vented their frustrations at King himself, who felt the need to respond to the attacks via twitter:
The clowns are pissed at me. Sorry, most are great. BUT…kids have always been scared of clowns. Don't kill the messengers for the message.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) April 10, 2017
What is it about clowns and IT, in particular, that so fascinates and terrifies us? Movie Nooz contributor and King-ophile Aaron Katzmarek gives us his take on it…
“The terror…began with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
And so begins Stephen King’s IT. Perhaps the most truly terrifying 1,100-page novel in the history of horror. IT is by no means King’s best work in a literary sense, but in terms of genuine scariness, it is, in my humble opinion, the pinnacle. King introduces us to a character widely regarded as the cause of coulrophobia- the fear of clowns…Enter Pennywise the dancing clown, eater of children, scourge of Derry, Maine.
I am an avid King reader. I would be so bold as to call myself an aficionado. Without a doubt, I have read IT more times than any other simply because once I start it, everything else falls away. There’s no point in trying to sleep – too scared. I just read feverishly until the novel is resolved and the deadlights go out, the sharpness of the fear abates some, and I can sleep again.
Published in 1986, IT went on to top Publisher’s Weekly list of bestsellers in that same year.
Four years later, in 1990, IT was made into a 3-hour made-for-TV special. Given a general ‘meh’ by fans and critics, the movie squeaked out an Emmy and a few other awards. A smattering of sort of stars were used, most notably Richard Thomas, Annette O’Toole, Jonathan Brandis and John Ritter. However, Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise stands alone as epic. Curry carries the film on his back effortlessly, and cements him as one of the scariest sons of bitches on the planet. He absolutely kills it!
Twenty-seven years pass and Warner Bros and New Line pick up the gauntlet from where Tim Curry dropped it in the Derry sewer all those years ago… for fans of IT out there, you know what twenty-eight years means for the doomed children in Derry, Maine.
As you can see for yourself, the film has dedicated itself to the horror, and perhaps with a shred of hopefulness on my part, away from the mediocre and often ambiguous character development in the novel and 1990 MFTV. The keystone, Pennywise, is now sleeker, more modern. He is played by Bill Skarsgard (Allegiant, Hemlock Grove), who admitted in an interview that: “Tim Curry’s performance was truly great, but it’s important for me to do something different because of that. I’ll never be able to make a Tim Curry performance as good as Tim Curry.”
Pennywise the dancing clown: darkly funny, charismatic and endearingly evil in his convincing arguments to have children take a balloon so they can float, too… will he lose his most important aspects if the film slides off into a shock and scare horror film instead of the monster “troll under the bridge(sewer)” film as King intended? And, most importantly for us, will the new Pennywise connect with fans? There are some awfully large clown shoes Bill Skarsgard has to fill, and come September 8th, I plan on a front row seat at the Megascreen to have that question answered.
If I leave the theater and step widely around the storm drains on my way home, I’ll be convinced this film did what IT was supposed to – scare me all the way back to seventh grade.