IT. Oh boy, is there so much I want to talk about. I’ve had so many excited thoughts about IT going on over the past month or so in bits and pieces: the book, the TV movie, and the theatrical movie. Pieces that I might not have enough to say about respectively in order to justify a post of their own, but together, maybe. Whatever. I just want to talk about IT damn it. 🎈
I’ve been romantic about the book for a long time, even before the latest craze that’s been stirred up by the new movie. I haven’t even read the damn thing yet, nor would I qualify as a “book reader” generally, for the record. I certainly respect the medium as I respect all mediums of storytelling, it just doesn’t happen all that often. Despite deeply loving stories, the only books I usually read are of a technical or non-fiction nature.
That said, I’ve never met a Stephen King story I didn’t like. Or, more accurately, I’ve never met a Stephen King adaptation I didn’t like (although he himself isn’t very fond of all the adaptations of his work). There’s a bit of a snobbish cliché in the book world that we’re all aware of: “The book is so much better.” I’ve always seen this as a slight against those of us who prefer the cinematic experience. That our version is the dumbed-down version, made bite-sized for the lowest common denominator.
While there is some merit to that line of thinking especially when it comes to a book the size of IT, movies are simply different to where it’s very hard to capture the same amount of detail. Most movies do not have narration throughout (explaining things like what a character is thinking or feeling or smelling) nor would it be appropriate for many movies even if they could, depending on the tone. And, of course, they’re simply too short. That’s changed quite a bit in the last decade, where we’re gifted with much larger sagas over the span of a miniseries or TV series. While I love both the original TV movie (not a popular opinion in the horror community for some reason mind you) and the new movie, I think the best format for IT to really get a proper adaptation would be something like what they’ve done with Stranger Things.
The more I learn about the book, the more it becomes apparent just how truly rich it is, and that when it comes to reading it, it’s do or die. Just one problem. When I was looking for the book a few months back before the new movie had blown up, I couldn’t find a decent copy anywhere (keeping in mind I’m looking for an original 1986 copy, not a new print or digital version). But, now that the movie has become a mega hit, there’s no shortage of copies up for sell, only their value has gone way up, with none of them selling for any less than $60! So, while I ponder the best approach to getting my clutches on one, let’s appreciate the art! UPDATE — I’ve now completed the book and you can read about it in “Let’s Talk About IT: Part II.”
I reached out to the artist of the original 1986 book cover art, Bob Giusti, about the possibility of getting some high-res copies of the art (something else that I’d been struggling to acquire) and he referred me to the great people over at Suntup Editions, who provided me with beautiful copies of the art.
The Original Painting
You can pick up a beautiful, framed art print of it here.
The Official Painting
The Official Painting in Print
As you can see, it’s hands-down the best artwork ever done for the book. As a purist, perhaps you can see part of why I’m not much interested in the new prints (even if they are only $10). There have actually been many, many covers done with all the various re-prints over the years. However, there’s only one other one that I really like, that is actually quite chilling.
An Alternate Painting for a Japanese Release
Chilling, because if you’re aware of all the monsters that make an appearance in the book, you know which one this might be.
It also happens to be my own worst fear and exactly what Pennywise would use against me, the shark from JAWS. Other monsters that appear are: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man, and the The Mummy. The list is much, much longer, but I can’t find a comprehensive list anywhere. So, there’s only one way to find out I guess! UPDATE — Having finally finished the book, I’ve now cataloged all those monsters here. Back to being grumpy, searching on eBay.
The TV Movie
Note: It’s officially labeled a TV miniseries, but in actuality, it’s just two feature-length, made-for-TV movies. I’d hardly call it a miniseries like what they did with The Stand.
The consensus in the horror community is pretty much this: Tim Curry‘s performance was amazing (which is pretty much undisputed), but that the rest of the movie was pretty bad in every other aspect. Well, as a lover of the unloved as I so often am, I love the original as a whole. But, for good measure, let’s go ahead and watch the best scene in the whole movie to get ya excited:
The Theatrical Movie
Like most people, I think IT (2017) is a very good movie, regardless of genre, period. I didn’t find it to be particularly scary, through no fault of the filmmakers or performances mind you, I just didn’t on a personal level. A lot of other people are feeling the same way, that it’s a great movie, but not necessarily very scary. An important distinction, however, is that because of this many have gone as far as to say that it’s not even a horror movie!
Let’s set the record straight on that. IT is a horror movie. Like all good stories, it’s also a drama at its core. And you know what, it’s also a very funny movie. As far as it not being scary? Just because something is scary, doesn’t make it a horror movie. And just because something isn’t scary, doesn’t mean that it’s not. In fact, there are very few horror movies that are actually scary. “Scary,” like “terrifying” or “frightening” are often interchangeable euphemisms or marketing terms for horror, and not meant to really indicate that it’s truly, “make you feel close to death” scary.
Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful of horror movies that were authentically scary: JAWS, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Fire in the Sky, Poltergeist, The Babadook, Event Horizon, and The Blair Witch Project. And of course there are others, but that’s the short list.
There are horror movies that are just fun.
There are horror movies that are just sad.
There are horror movies that are just cool.
There are horror movies that are just gory.
There are horror movies that are just weird.
There are horror movies that are just creepy.
There are horror movies that are just suspenseful.
There are horror movies that are just jump-scares.
And I have a special place in my heart for all of them. But, for a movie to be truly scary, it has to have a special combination and go to a whole other place to really mind fuck us. Then, of course, there are the movies that just specially fuck with us individually. There are two movies I find to be “cover my head with a blanket” scary, that others may even laugh at the prospect of them being scary. That would be E.T. and Ernest Scared Stupid. Those movies are pretty disturbing.
I think the secret ingredient might be pushing reality to its brink, getting as close to the supernatural as possible, without crossing that line. So, what’s chilling is that on some level, it’s not just make-believe, it’s something that could really happen. Let’s look at a few examples:
JAWS — Well, there certainly are sharks in real life, and they’ve certainly killed and eaten people. Not much more needs to be said about that.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — As much as some city folk are ignorant about thinking of states like Texas as big, empty deserts overrun with cowboys, there really are places in the world where you’re not welcome. Places that if you trespass onto, no matter how innocent, you will be in a world of hurt.
Fire in the Sky — Many respected scientists, with what we know today, believe there is a high probability of life on other planets. In fact, with essentially infinite universes, it would be much harder to imagine there not being any other life out there than to imagine there is. That said, most also believe that if we were to be visited by said life, which would require technology far-evolved from our own, would mean their intelligence would be far-evolved, and therefore the likeliness that they’d be violent toward us is slim.
IT: Chapter Two
It’s not over yet. As I walked out of the theater having just seen IT: Chapter One, I was a little disappointed by all the monsters that weren’t in it (especially you know who 🦈), but I remarked: “Well, maybe they didn’t have the rights or budget to do a lot of that stuff. But, with the success of this film, they’ll have all the money and resources they’ll ever need for the sequel. Maybe they’ll do some flashback stuff.” And there’s some good news and bad news on that.
Good news, it looks like I was mostly right about the budget, their desire to do more, and the fact that the sequel will likely have some flashback scenes to spend more time with the Loser’s Club as kids.
Bad news, I also read somewhere that they didn’t want to use monsters from the books too much and come up with some new stuff. But, the leper and The Mummy from the book made short appearances, so maybe there’s still a chance. I’m sure it’ll be fantastic regardless. Onward!
What monster would you love to see Pennywise use against the Loser’s Club in possibly the last screen adaptation of IT to ever take place?
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