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Forget Stranger Things: why IT will be the best retro blast of horror this year


Scared of clowns? You might want to look away, as Stephen King’s iconic villain Pennywise is back to haunt your nightmares once again in this September's IT.

Some will still be plagued by memories of Tim Curry in the 1990s adaptation, but this latest take on King’s terrifying novel looks set to introduce a whole new generation to the term coulrophobia. (That means fear of clowns by the way.)

When the spine tingling trailer for IT first dropped it boasted a blend of old school horror, 80s nostalgia and glimpses of terror. A mix that proved so popular it broke online records for the most views in a day.

In fact, anticipation for IT might outstrip everyone’s favourite 80s throwback Stranger Things, but you can forget the Netflix series. Here’s why seeing IT on the big screen will be the best blast of retro horror you can get this year…

IT promises to be scarier

IT centres on Derry, a town terrorised by Pennywise, an evil being that can manifest itself as your worst fears. If that isn’t scary enough, it often takes the form of a clown, played in the film by Bill Skarsgard.

His sinister interpretation is pretty much a reinvention, seen in the trailer as more ominous and unnerving than Tim Curry’s version. (And that's saying a lot.)

As the film’s producer Barbara Muschietti described, "he kept the character very unpredictable, and that's what scares us the most when you don't know what way he's going to go".

IT's a Stephen King classic

Without IT, Stranger Things wouldn’t even exist. Stephen King’s trailblazing novel is the original tale of teenagers taking on evil. While you can’t miss the influence of King’s work on the Netflix series, why settle for the small screen when you can have the real thing?

IT is a sprawling story of small town suburbia besieged by an evil force, littered not only with terrifying scares but engrossing characters and a gripping plot. Not forgetting the villain, who has become so infamous that he is referred to as a horror icon.

IT promises to honour the book

Stephen King is currently having a cinematic renaissance, with The Dark Tower and IT both being reimagined for the big screen.

However adaptations of his work have been a mixed bag in the past (for every classic like The Shining, there is a Maximum Overdrive). Despite the 1990s TV adaptation director Andrés Muschietti’s (Mama) version is arguably the first time that the ambition and budget of the screen version has matched the terrifying heights of the novel.

To do the weighty tome justice, the film has been split into two parts. The first, out this September is called Part 1: The Losers Club. The development of the second part hinges entirely on the success of this first one.

IT's a retro horror funhouse

One of the biggest changes in translating IT to screen is that the film is now set in the 1980s. Second Producer Dan Lin described the film as “very much an homage to '80s movies” so it looks like it will fit right into the VHS horror generation.

The nostalgia doesn’t stop there for those still scarred by the 1990 version. The new film will follow some of the familiar beats and Tim Curry’s infamous Pennywise design even makes a cameo appearance in the latest trailer.

IT is also a modern remake

Despite IT being anchored in the 1980s, Muschietti will be taking a fresh approach to adapting the story. In other words, it will try to capture the tone of the book rather than focusing solely on homage to the 80’s.

As well as re-designing Pennywise as a more antique type clown, the filmmakers are looking to focus on the fact that the evil beast is a shape-shifter; the clown façade is simply a mask to what is hidden underneath.

IT features 1980s teen misfits

The Losers Club take it upon themselves to rid the town of Derry of its terrifying evil. Seeing this group of 80s geeks you would be forgiven for thinking of the decade’s most famous coming-of-age films like The Goonies and Stand by Me (also based on a King story).

Director Muschietti looks to have assembled actors whose chemistry shines through the screen. This tight-knit group, which includes Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things, show in the trailer they can bring a bit of comedic relief to what promises to be a scary experience.

IT looks great

Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung has adopted a modern visual tone, contrasting the colourful childhood summer scenes with a dulled palette of dark and creepy colours, creating the perfect shadows and dark corners for Pennywise to dwell.

Muschietti adds his visual flair as well, demonstrated by the flickering slide projector in the trailer, cascading the unnerving image of the hideous clown moving ever closer. It’s truly disturbing.

IT has the Stephen King thumbs up

King himself has given the new film his seal of approval and let’s face it, you can’t get higher praise than from the master of horror himself.

IT is released on 8th September.

Tom Nightingale is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.

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