UPDATE: It looks like we didn't have to wait too long to get a glimpse of Pennywise. Check out the demonic clown here.
We all have horrors that screwed with our childhood. Perhaps it was a beast hiding underneath the bed. Maybe it was a monster in the closet. Either way, whatever demons that haunted us felt all too real and extremely terrifying. And one thing that freaked me the f*ck out when I caught it on television was Tim Curry as Pennywise in the TV-mini series, Stephen King’s IT. Whatever issues I had with the film, they all seemed to wash away every damn time that clown showed up. In fact, the first half of the two parter was far more frightening because it focused on the children and this monstrously demented villain hunting them. As good as Curry was however, nothing prepared me for the novel itself which I read after watching the Tommy Lee Wallace directed TV version. After that, I was absolutely freaked out by the nightmarish white face and the shock of red hair… and those teeth.
As you’ve likely heard, we are about to get a big screen version of IT. I’m thrilled at the prospect of seeing what the filmmakers can do by taking this to a new level. In fact, I was really excited to see what Cary Fukunaga might have done with this horrific tale of childhood trauma. After all, the man has a pretty f*cking great record so I truly believe he may have made it legitimately scary. However, the man stepping in to replace him is the director of MAMA - a film which didn’t quite work for me - yet somehow, I feel that Andrés Muschietti may be another solid choice. The thing about MAMA that I did like was how dark the story went. Much like IT, the film featured children endangered by an evil entity. My biggest complaint about MAMA was the design of the film’s title character, she just wasn’t scary. So can he make a clown terrifying? We will have to wait and see of course.
As far as casting is concerned, the actor taking on Pennywise is an intriguing choice. Having Curry, a legendary character actor bring this frightening icon to life was a brilliant take. This time however, Bill Skarsgård will be stepping into the oversized clown shoes. The twenty-five-year-old actor is very young which seems a bit of an odd way to go. Other than being aware of his age, I’m not terribly familiar with the work he has put out there. Sure I’ve seen him here and there, but I’ve yet to watch him in the Eli Roth series Hemlock Grove. While his age may be a possible issue, the fact that he has the name Skarsgård brings a lot of promise. After all, that family sure seems to have a ton of talent coursing through their veins. And once the new look of Pennywise is revealed, maybe we’ll see just what made him the right choice for such an iconic role.
One of the biggest problems that plagued the TV version was the last half, especially the final confrontation. As well, many of the scariest sequences in the novel were diluted or simply nowhere to be found. Should we talk about the silly giant spider? Well, it is part of the story, but the way it’s handled here is the opposite of scary. To be fair, I didn’t mind it too much as I have a thing for spiders the size of a truck, but it essentially is a cheap ending that can’t compare to the horrors of the novel or what came before. From the description of “The Barrens” and the “Deadlights” to the many ways Pennywise terrorizes the children - as well as the adult versions of the characters - it was a creepy journey that haunted my nights for a few weeks afterwards. As much as I enjoyed Tim Curry and some of the scares in the first half, I only hope that the upcoming version will embrace the viciousness that is Pennywise and the Deadlights.
What gives me hope about bringing one of my favorite novels to the big screen is that this always felt far too dark to do it justice on TV. Well that isn’t quite true now thanks to a ton of great original content on cable that often surpasses features. However, it thrills me to see this demented clown on the big screen. Hopefully the new version will be a fairly faithful retelling of the nightmarish world the children of Derry, Maine face. Even with doubts, the promise of what could be brings out the Stephen King geek love out in me. Sure many of of King’s big screen adaptations are disappointing, but something tells me that IT will remind us what fear is once again.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but we are excited to look into the Deadlights of Stephen King’s IT once again. Is there concern? Absolutely. Losing Cary seemed like it could have killed the project, but with a competent director we may all want to “float” with the tortured souls that Pennywise feeds on. I do have concerns regarding the casting of Pennywise. After all, trying to recreate the brilliance of what Tim Curry brought to the role seems like a humongous task for any actor. Let’s just hope he can bring the terror and make this demented clown scary again. Better still, perhaps they can bring some of the more horrific elements from the novel into the mix. Stephen King’s IT is a fantastically scary story, and one that I believe could make for a successful feature film.