Stephen King published the horror novel It in 1986, and director Tommy Lee Wallace adapted it to film in 1990. It originally aired on television as a mini-series.
The story takes place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine and follows the lives of a group of kids who come together to save their town from Pennywise, a monster that has been terrorizing children. This coming-of-age tale delves into themes such as overcoming fear and unity.
Many children go missing and end up dead while the main characters slowly recognize they share a common enemy. Together, they work to uncover Pennywise’s identity to stop him from preying on their community. They track the clown down to his lair in the sewers and defeat him – or so they thought. Beverly, Bill, Ben, Eddie, Stan, Richie, and Mike make a pact that if It were to ever return, so would they to prevent more deaths.
Unfortunately, 27 years later, Pennywise does return. In the original 1990 drama series, the story is split into two movie-length episodes. The first half focuses on their childhood experience, and the second follows their return and ultimate victory over this monster. At the time, film technology was not as impressive as it is in 2017. As such, many fans were delighted with the announcement of a recreation of the movie with a whole new cast. Curiously, the recreation was released exactly 27 years after the 1990 version debuted.
This time, Bill Skarsgard plays the infamous Pennywise as opposed to Tim Curry in the 1990 film, and the movie is revamped. Curry and Skarsgard portray different versions of Pennywise. Curry is more calculating and human-like, partially because of limited film technology in 1990. Skarsgard presents Pennywise as more of a beastly monster, with only instinctual intelligence. Compared to Curry, Skarsgard’s actions and emotions are motivated primarily by his hunger for fear as he appears more animalistic and primal, caring only for instant gratification.
Both films demonstrate different takes on the iconic opening scene in which Bill’s little brother Georgie encounters Pennywise in a storm drain. It attempts to coax Georgie into the sewers with him, pretending to be a light-hearted clown. Curry’s Pennywise initiates a conversation with Georgie by using a playful tone and offering him a balloon, applying rhetorical techniques to manipulate the child into feeling more comfortable. Curry’s Pennywise, however, waits to attack, and even then the actual violence isn’t shown. Instead, it’s implied, leaving the gore to the audience’s imagination.
Skarsgard’s 2017 Pennywise doesn’t attempt to look friendly, and he doesn’t engage in actual conversation. While he does speak to Georgie, his words sound premeditated, and he doesn’t adjust his argument based on the responses he gets. He simply wants the instant gratification of intimidation with disturbing or brutal images. This Pennywise has to consume flesh and fear to survive. Curry’s It isn’t urgently trying to find prey. He takes his time and views it as a game, toying with his victim’s emotions to evoke the purest fear he can. Skarsgard appears more desperate in his attempts to find prey. He uses panic and creepiness to scare the kids he hunts which in turn affects the audience’s reactions. The movie creates a tense, anxious atmosphere stemming from repetitive and rapid horror visuals.
The 2017 recreation stays true to the main plot of 1990 original, but the new It incorporates new special effects. Pennywise now stays on camera even while morphing, allowing the audience to experience the monster’s full terror. He targets and scares each individual child with new approaches and jump scares. The newer version of Pennywise lives in an abandoned house attached to the sewers; this difference is opposite the original, where he dwells strictly in the sewers. This change facilitates more interaction between the children and the monster, as they venture into the house and face It directly. The confrontations between them and It are more detailed and physical than before. While the actors playing the children are different in this remake, their characteristics and traits stay the same for the most part. Some characters are modernized, like Richie and his raunchy updated humor.
The recreation of this well-known horror story captures the essence of fear and mystery that made the original novel and film famous. Skarsgard’s skin-crawling performance keeps the audience on their toes. For viewers, the movie was an exciting adaption that left them wanting more. Luckily, it ends with the title It, and the phrase ‘Chapter One’ appears below. Now fans are eagerly awaiting the official announcement of the next chapter.