The film adaptation of Stephen King’s biblical length of a novel IT is still in production shambles. Much buzz was garnered from early talks of a new adaptation just a couple of years ago- with even the possibilities of Guillermo del Toro to direct- but the film has since changed production companies, directors, and the uncertainty of the most important casting choice: Pennywise the Clown.
The 1990 mini-series adaption of King’s novel provided a chilling, memorable performance from Tim Curry as the titular character, but it feels extremely outdated and unfortunately not scary at all with today’s standards of horror. A fresh, modern re-telling of the story can heighten the disturbing and imaginative world King creates which the mini-series just scratched. The mini-series isn’t the worst of King’s adaptations, but IT definitely deserves another chance on the big screen. There are two important factors to this film’s success: casting and the faithfulness to the source material.
King’s immense novel is an extremely graphic and intimate detail of children who face horrors, whether it’s the killer entity who preys on their fears, or the ordinary people of Derry who prove to be just as cruel. King constructed a tale about growing up, and the fears and anxieties everyone faces while coming of age is the basis of the horror in which the killer entity feeds on. This intensity on film is important with how the entity is portrayed, especially Pennywise, who is sadistically sinister as the playful predator.
It’s difficult to imagine a different portrayal of Pennywise because Curry’s performance was so nuanced and original. The 1990 adaption works and has developed a cult status almost solely based on his performance, which is both frightening and funny. However, the novel’s depiction differs from Curry’s performance. In the novel, Pennywise doesn’t seem as “theatrical” as Curry, and is instead much more perverse. The mini-series understandably didn’t lift the wincing dialogue from the novel, but the new adaptation can definitely stray from Curry’s interpretation. The main actor in talks of portraying Pennywise is Will Poulter. (Son of Rambow, The Maze Runner) Poulter is a young actor, and has proven to play sinister before, so a new depiction on Pennywise has the potential to be different, if possible scarier. It’s also difficult to speculate anything without seeing Poulter in full Pennywise mode. If anything can be said, the role is pinnacle in the film’s execution. No pressure.
Another huge step in production, but one that disappointingly fell apart was True Detective director Cary Fukunaga’s involvement. Season One of True Detective was a creatively fully realized show that was incredibly creepy and atmospheric. Fukunaga’s direction could have strayed into a deeply disturbing portrayal of Derry and the Losers’ Club’s encounters with the entity, as well as really create highly sympathetic three dimensional characters with the main protagonists as kids and adults. As of now, Andrés Muschietti (director of Mama) is set to direct. Mama was inventively scary, and Muschietti seems like a solid choice for diving creating the world King wrote on page.
King’s novel didn’t hold back. Every depiction of murder and cruelty was extensively detailed and visual almost to the point of excess. The strength of King’s violence lies in his sympathy for the characters. Every member of the Losers’ Club is a strong reflection of the childhood, each with different faults and circumstances that ultimately become their saving grace. The degradation of these characters immediately stick with you. You feel for them.
If the new adaptation decides to fully depict the graphic, visceral violence of the novel, it will be difficult for some because of its direction towards children. Georgie’s death is clear in the mini-series, but the novel really shows exactly how Pennywise dismembers him. The novel’s most controversial scene of intimacy between the Losers’ Club may also be problematic for the screen if they decide to stay true to the novel. Arguably a very important passage which truly illustrates the theme of friendship and growing up, the decision to film this demands subtlety and good taste.
The novel’s length is staggering, so the most interesting detail of the new adaptation is how much of the story will be told. The novel has a plethora of monsters and creatures, and the final act does go deep into absurdity. Will it be two-parts? Or can they skillfully craft a single feature length film with economy to fully capture the emotion and complex relationships. Either way, if the film is set into production, it has the potential to become a staple of Stephen King adaptations and hopefully surpass the other version.
Review and photos by Alex Gougeon. Alex is a Toronto-Based freelance Writer, Musician and Videographer who loves everything Film and Music and recently reviewed Death Grips live and the film Slow West for Step On magazine.