Stephen King’s iconic killer clown is back, but can he still give this generation a good scare?
The year is 1957. In Derry, Maine, six-year-old Georgie Denbrough races a paper boat along the flooded gutters of his street.
As the boat sails into a storm drain, Georgie meets a clown in the sewers who invites him to climb in and get it, before tearing him limb from limb.
The creature is It, and It isn’t done yet. Returning to Derry to prey on more children, Georgie’s brother Bill and his friends become the monster’s next target – and they decide to fight back.
But as It shape shifts to resemble their greatest fears, the gang will have to show immense courage.
Released in 1986, It, written by Stephen King, sent shivers through the collective imagination. It was the ultimate of all horrors combined: a monster that got in our heads and found our innermost fears.
“I had an idea that I wanted to write a book that had all the monsters in it,” King explains of his inspiration for Pennywise the clown.
“I thought to myself [that] I’ll get all the monsters together I possibly can – I’ll get the vampire, I’ll get the werewolf, I’ll even get the mummy.
“But then I thought, there ought to be one binding, horrible creature.
“So I thought to myself, ‘what scares children more than anything else in the world?’ And the answer was clowns.”
Born in 1947, King’s inspiration for the mother-of-all monsters was likely influenced by the following decade of villainous creatures on the big screen where Godzilla, the Blob and Frankenstein ruled the horror genre.
But with over 70 years between our generation and The Creature from the Black Lagoon,
vampires are sparklier (Twilight) and werewolves are soft and fuzzy (Harry Potter) – and the truth is, we’re just not scared anymore.
It’s a question director Andrés Muschietti has been brooding over with his film adaptation of the iconic horror novel.
Starring Bill Skarsgård in the title role, the film aims to blow the dust off King’s story and align it with the 21st century’s appetite for horror.
“I admire Stephen King immensely, but you go into shooting this movie and reimagining the story by looking inside your experience as a reader,” he says.
“We had the freedom of introducing any of the characters in the book. I chose to expand
that range of fears – the book is basically a childhood in the 50s, kids going to the movies and watching monsters.
“All those monsters are very lovable, but they’re a bit dated.”
As for what fears await to cater to a new generation, the director remains tight-lipped,
but he does hint at a darker, more psychological turn to match the expectations of his audience.
“I wanted to layer those fears and make them deeper and more strange,” he says.
“If you’re trying to scare an audience, you first need to know what scares you.”
Also starring: Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis,
Nicholas Hamilton and Jaeden Lieberher
Running time: 135 mins
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