We All Float Down Here (novel spoilers below)…
It-mania invaded pop culture this week. Look anywhere and you will see red balloons and creepy kids in yellow rain jackets advertising the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It. Often considered one of King’s top 5 books, ABC television has already adapted It once in the 90s as a TV mini-series. That effort featured many familiar faces (for the time), such as Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Harry Anderson, Jonathan Brandis, Seth Green, and Tim Curry in an iconic role as the evil Pennywise the Clown. Sadly, although Tim Curry put on a career-defining portrayal of the novel’s villain, many fan don’t have fond memories of the mini-series. After a few super scary moments early on, the series just sort of peters out under the weight of the story it wanted to tell and the constraints of the television medium in the 90s.
Now that a feature-film adaptation debuts today, what can fans hope for? Although all signs point to a supremely scary movie, too many King adaptations have left fans feeling burned after a sub-par effort. I’ve not read every word Mr. King has ever written, but I’m well on my way. Having read It three times, I feel I know the story pretty well, so I thought I’d compile a list of what I’d like to see (and a short list of what I definitely do not want to see) in this movie.
Give me this, and I’ll come home happy
Pick a time period
The novel follows “The Losers’ Club” during two periods from their lives: the late-50s and the mid-80s. The book treats both timelines as their own narratives, though interwoven together. For about 1000 pages, we advance through the Losers’ attempts, both as children and adults, to end Pennywise’s reign of terror in Derry, Maine. It totally works – because it’s a book. Trying to cram two complete adventures against Pennywise into one 2 hour movie would not just be hard – it would be a complete mess. If we can trust the previews, the movie appears to focus on the children’s mission. Question – Does that setup a sequel for their grown up versions?
Give Henry Bowers a little characterization
Lots of King’s work features bad-guys that behave badly because… because they’re bad. We often see very little about “why” this person likes slicing people’s cheeks off, we just know that they do. When these bad-guys get translated into movie characters, whatever history they had in the book usually gets dropped. I want more. If this movie takes place in the children’s narrative, Henry Bowers will take up a LOT of their energy. Rather than making Henry a stock King-movie bad-because-I-like-being-bad bad guy, let me know WHY Henry terrorizes the Losers.
Make Pennywise scary. No, I mean really scary.
Think about the frequency with which we’ve seen rebooted horror franchises, complete with “re-imagined” versions of their iconic villains. We’ve seen Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, Michael Myers, heck, even Satan return to the silver screen in recent years. None of them scared me too much. Sure, there were some gross-out moments, but not once have I come back home, needing to look under the bed. That’s pretty much the only reason I watch horror movies: to see something new, something actually scary. Here’s my permission slip: Let Pennywise go nuts.
Don’t do this and I’ll come home happy
Don’t over do it with Bill’s stutter
Child actors have limitations. Their little lives haven’t experienced enough yet to understand all the little nuances that make people unique. Jaeden Lieberher takes on the role of “Stuttering” Bill Denbrough. Bill leads the Losers in their mission against Pennywise. The stutter, in the 1958 setting in the book, sets Bill apart from the other kids as a target of ridicule (a “loser”). Jonathon Brandis gave it his best back in the 90s in the same role and… I never bought it. The actor has since died and it’s not cool to talk badly like this but… I still never bought it. Here’s hoping New Line set Jaeden up with a stuttering dialog coach from the first day he was signed to do the movie.
Don’t include the sewer orgy (novel SPOILER BEWARE)
Toward the end of the novel, the kids remain trapped under the surface of the earth in the mishmash of Derry’s sewers and Pennywise’s lair. Beverly convinces all of the boys they need to have sex with her in order to keep their fellowship strong. After all, there’s no possible way they could get out of this jam without a strong fellowship, right? Um, no. I hate this part of the book and hope nothing like it remains in the movie. Not only would an underage sex scene alienate most viewers, there’s no good reason for it in the narrative.
If the movie can grant me these small requests, I’ll come away happy, most viewers would come away happy and the might just get that sequel I mentioned out of it.