IT – Chapter One (2017) and Chapter Two (2019) are available to rent, buy or stream.
Given the critical and ratings success of the ABC TV mini-series in 1990, you would have assumed that the arrival of Stephen King’s IT on the big screen was a given, but no one thought it would take seventeen years! It was back in 2009 that Warner Bros announced a movie version of IT, with the studio actively searching for the right director to bring King’s vision to life. But, the question of what form Stephen King’s lengthy novel should take on the big screen haunted its development, much as it had done with the ABC series many years before. Initially, Warner Bros favoured a condensed version of King’s novel, one movie that housed the best IT had to offer in horror. However, translating the material into a single feature proved challenging. As a result, two directors, David Kajganich and Cary Fukunaga, would walk away from the project before Andrés Muschietti finally established a two-chapter movie event, with the second chapter dependent on the success of the first.
Muschietti’s first film would focus on the young Loser’s Club, and the second the return of the adult Losers to Derry. This would split Stephen King’s original narrative, separating the entwined story of the past and present in favour of two time-bound chapters while moving the young Losers Club story from the 1950s to the late 1980s. Warner Bros allowed Muschietti the creative freedom needed to capture the vast themes inherent in King’s novel while modernising the story arc, leading to one of the highest-grossing and most narratively complex horrors of the 2010s.
Central to IT’s success was Muschietti’s casting choices as he brought together some of Hollywood’s finest talent in creating a Losers Club we could all believe in, from its young cast to their older counterparts. Throughout Chapter One, The Losers Club are allowed the space needed to fully embrace King’s creations, a weakness that had haunted the otherwise brilliant TV movie due to time pressures. Meanwhile, Pennywise would fully embrace the alien creature inside with Bill Skarsgård’s exquisite, horrific and other-worldly interpretation. While Tim Curry’s 1990 Pennywise may have given entire generations nightmares and increased instances of Coulrophobia, Skarsgård’s would horrify and mesmerise.
The critical and financial success of Mushietti’s faithful yet, modern adaptation of IT only proved the enduring power of King’s original novel. But why is IT a masterpiece of modern horror? After all, many argue it is not King’s strongest work, yet its cultural impact remains prominent. IT would bring together a range of themes found in his earlier work, from The Body to Carrie and The Stand, to create a coming-of-age horror of our deep-seated childhood fears and insecurities and their ability to shape the adult we become. Here King reminds us of our human need to face our monsters, wherever they may reside, at whatever age we may be. IT, like The Body, is a story of the power of our early teenage friendships. But IT is also a tale of the adult scars we carry from our teens and the need to own our past. Mushetti captures these elements beautifully throughout both Chapters of IT, always acknowledging the psychological horror at the core of King’s story while unlocking the childhood fears we would rather bury. As a result, IT reminds us of the children we once were while asking us to reflect on the adult we now are and how the two are interlinked no matter the distance of time.