Around the summer of 1988 or 1989, my best friend had a large book collection. A couple of the books were by Glen Cook and the exploits of the Black Company, a very Tolkienesque novel with magic, violence, and tragedy. They were wonderful books to have for a 14 year old boy, novels of dreams and fantasy. He also gave me a few books by Stephen King, of which I had never read. A few of the first ones I read are the classics: Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, etc. However, as much as these novels had some terror in them, nothing could have prepared me for the nightmares that came when I finally tackled It. To say the novel is a bit long is being generous. A whopping 1,138 pages of black text on fading white/yellow paper, which was easy to read with a flashlight under a blanket.
When 1990 rolled around I had mostly forgotten how scary the novel is. I never had any phobia when it came to clowns, so Pennywise visually in my head didn’t frighten me. The psychological terror came from the unknown terror of being a kid in the woods without any help from adults. Then the It miniseries came out on TV and all of the nightmares returned. If you’ve seen It or remember It, the miniseries starred several known actors of the day. John Ritter, Annette O’Toole, Harry Anderson, Tim Reid, Richard Thomas, Dennis Christopher, and Richard Masur played the grown up adults of the novel that had fought It 27 years before and defeated It temporarily. What I remember the most was the awesome performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise the dancing clown. Was I scared when I watched as a 16 year old? Absolutely. Did It hold up over time? Not so much. Watching It again this week was quite a letdown in fact. I’m not any less fascinated by the terror, but I realized you just can’t make something terrifying when its on network television.
Now we get to the meat of this article because It has returned. Director Andy Muschietti has brought Pennywise to the big screen. Actor Bill Skarsgard has put on the clown makeup to enter our nightmares once again. With the novel being so long, containing so much visual and stimulating information, Muschietti has wisely split the film into 2 parts. The second film has been green-lit already with the Mama director returning. The first film, which debuts on Friday, September 8th, will be following the group of kids known as the Loser’s Club. The time frames in the novel are 1957-1958 and jumping ahead to 1984-1985. Pennywise returns every 27 years to feed off the town of Derry, Maine. The new film has changed the years with the kids era being the mid-80’s and the next cycle in current times. With the success of the Netflix series Stranger Things as a guideline, Muschietti appears to have successfully captured the look of this time period as well. Will It work? If early reviews are to be believed It looks like a success. A new era for Pennywise to feed on our nightmares and face off against the Loser’s Club. A new film to terrify audiences on a large scale.
Will It live up to the hype? I’ll offer up this. I visited both the novel and the miniseries in the last few weeks in preparation for the film’s release. What I found has me both excited and frightened. The TV It has not aged well, especially when the adults era is on screen. Also, there is only so much you can do on network TV. The novel however confirmed my fears. It is terrifying. It will give you the willies. It will make your skin crawl. It will promise you your wildest dreams. It wants to give you a balloon. It wants to make you float. It needs to feed. It has come for Derry and all that dare watch. It.