“I started after him…and the clown looked back. I saw Its eyes, and all at once I understood who It was.”
“Who was it, Don?” Harold Gardner asked softly.
“It was Derry,” Don Hagarty said. “It was this town.” (excerpt from IT)
This phrase chilled me to the bone. I was ten years old and reading IT, my first Stephen King novel under the protection of my fuzzy Strawberry Shortcake blanket and a handy flashlight. It was 1986 and I lived in Eugene, a small college town in Oregon that was very similar in description to Derry, the fictional setting of King’s novel. I remember the similarity of the descriptions in the book of the Derry Children’s Library and finding it so close to my own experience at the Eugene Public Library.
The plot centers around seven children who, considered misfits and cruelly jeered at by their peers, live in the small town of Derry, Main. They form what turns out to be an almost pre ordained friendship in the summer of 1957 to fight against a supernatural evil that is killing children in Derry, somehow intuitively realizing that only they have the power to stop it. In the book, the plot bounces from present to past and back again, showing us how each of them evolved into adults while also narrating the events of that horrible summer. It’s not specified if the film will be as detailed about their adult lives, but from the trailer it’s safe to assume that at least most of it will translate to the screen. The depiction of their adult lives is necessary because it is then that they must find each other again to keep a promise made on that fateful summer: to go back if the horror ever started again.
IT resonated so much while scaring the living shit out of me mainly because I was the same age as the children in the books. I was soon to turn eleven, and I felt everything they felt, the last glorious vestige of childhood before it was swept away in the storm of impending adolescence. My summer bike rides to the Valley River Center, the only mall that existed in Eugene in the 80s, to school, to the library, to Walden Books downtown, were suddenly filled with the possibility of a murderous clown lurking about, may be waiting for me and my friends around a street corner, an alley or in the dark.
When I heard that a new version of IT was in production, I felt both anticipation but also suspicion because the previous adaptation had done such a disservice to the novel even with the superb presence of Tim Curry. Mainly because the main essence of IT was that it wasn’t only about horror and a boogeyman that was impossible to escape, but it was a sort of testament to youth, to friendship, to first love and the bonds we create as children that can easily reach into adulthood if we wish hard enough.
The trailer led me to harbor new hope. Pennywise is not comically horrific like a cheesy 80s cult horror movie, but is instead exactly as I pictured him when I was ten and hiding under the covers. The children, Bev, Bill, Eddy, Mike, Stan and Richie are also how I imagined with a sort of wise-beyond-their-years demeanor, forced to contend with a horror that adults were ill-equipped to deal with and in many instances, unwilling.
KatzsMith Productions is in charge of this new rendition, along with Andres Muschietti (Mama, Evita) directing and Chung-hoon Chung (The Handmaiden, Me,Earl and the Dying Girl) in charge of cinematography. New Line Cinema is in charge of distribution with a tentative release date in the U.S, of September 8, 2017. On March 31 Variety reported that the trailer had set records for most online views in a single day. Many of the actors, including the children, have been in previous films but it’s perhaps Finn Nolfhard, star of Netflixx’s popular show Stranger Things the most recognizable face.
One of the most terrifying locations in the book, 29 Neibolt Street, the haunted house to shame all haunted houses is more like the Marsden House in King’s Salem’s Lot than the description in the novel of Number 29, which is supposed to be a rather small and rattish abandoned house. But the film gave it a more grandiose chill factor as seen in this still offered by Cine.gr:
IT is one of Stephen King’s best work, because it doesn’t limit itself to being just an under-the-covers horror novel. It’s also a document to the magic of childhood, or as one of the characters elonquently puts it as they face the new horror in adulthood: “What can be done when you’re eleven can often never be done again.”