A little more than a month after New Line Cinema aired its first sneak peek at the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s IT*, the studio is back with a second look at the film.
The 1 minute and 38-second trailer dropped during Sunday’s MTV Movie & TV Awards, and includes not only more details on the much-loved Losers’ Club but a closer look at Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise.
Along with the impressive visuals, however, the trailer gives fans of the 1986 novel and 1990 miniseries (haha just kidding, that doesn’t have fans) plenty to think about. What kid writes their name inside their shoes, for instance? Why does Patrick Hockstetter look like Adam Lazzara? And why is more than half of the Losers Club white boys with brown hair? Seriously, are we meant to be able to tell them apart? Because I definitely can’t.
These are pressing questions that deserve answers, but any resolutions will be forthcoming. In the meantime, let’s start considering nine major things the trailer did tell us.
Note: To avoid confusion, I’ll be stylizing the Stephen King novel as IT and the 2017 film as It.
1. This film is primarily concerned with children
As with It’s first trailer, the only characters to speak in this glimpse of the film are children. What’s more, all adult presence is ominous – curfew reminders adorn billboards, missing person posters litter the streets, and when adults do make an appearance, they’re accompanied by a voiceover warning against monsters.
One of the most effective themes in IT is the utter isolation and powerlessness of childhood, and it looks like the filmmakers managed to hone in on that. Not too bad from the director that brought us Mama.
2. The Losers Club dynamic is on point
Stan (Wyatt Oleff) is the sole voice of reason, Beverly (Sophia Lillis) is making eyes at Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), and Richie (Finn Wolfhard) is executing a tortured Mexican accent. So far, so Losers Club.
The trailer even features a hilariously extended exchange between the kids about “Derry pee” that plays pretty much exactly how you’d think a discussion on urine would between a bunch of 11 year olds. It’s just unfortunate that it’s interrupted by the discovery of a shoe belonging to one of It’s victims, absurdly identified by a name written on white canvas in giant Sharpie letters.
The Losers Club is the beating heart of IT’s narrative, so the cohesive group dynamic is encouraging. That Wolfhard, who plays Richie, already charmed most of us in Stranger Things probably helps.
3. Eddie is a fanny pack person
This is a tiny detail, but it deserves comment because of course Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer) wears a fanny pack.
For the uninitiated, Eddie is the Losers Club’s resident hypochondriac and frequent hero worshipper of Bill Denbrough. Eddie pulls through and demonstrates his worth several times throughout the novel, but he also spends a lot of page-time fussing over various ailments or cowering under the influence of his domineering mother.
That It costume designers gave him a fanny pack is maybe my favorite thing about this film so far.
4. Did I stutter? Not if your name is Bill…
It filmmakers have apparently cured Stuttering Bill Denbrough of his famous speech impediment.
The leader of the Losers Club speaks twice in this trailer, but is noticeably free of the stutter that plagued him in the novel and miniseries. His struggles solidified his status as a Loser and gave us an eerie pneumonic that echoed through the narrative: “He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.”
Whether it was thought that a stutter would be too distracting or that – as the brother of a young boy who was bizarrely and viciously murdered – Bill would be sufficiently estranged from his peers is unclear.
Bill’s hair color has also changed from the novel, but that’s less surprising. No one wants to look a ginger kid for two hours.
5. The location scouts nailed Derry
The town of Derry is a blatant copy of Stephen King’s own hometown of Bangor, Maine, but the lushly green landscape and mix-match of strip malls and historic buildings doesn’t quite inspire fear.
Derry is a place that “isn’t right,” where the “entire town is haunted.” The collection of dead grass, empty spaces, and bleak suburbia shown in the trailer evinces that feeling far more effectively.
6. The House on Neibolt Street is every haunted house cliché ever
And here’s where we veer off sharply in the direction of camp.
I’m not sure if the set designers were watching a lot of The Munsters when they built 29 Neibolt Street or if they’re just not very good at their jobs, but Derry’s most haunted house is a huge letdown.
IT is more adult in its conception of horror, and while Pennywise often opts to appear as horror archetypes, the setting is often surprisingly mundane. The House on Neibolt Street is derilect, abandoned, and frightening, sure, but filmmakers could have been just a little more subtle in their execution.
As it stands, all that house is missing is a few bats and creaky old sign with “KEEP OUT!” painted in red.
7. The time period has been updated
In the novel, the Losers Club battles It first in 1958 and again in 1985. Missing children posters featured in the new trailer, however, suggest that Pennywise begins his murder spree 30 years later, placing this film firmly in the 1980s.
The 1950s setting is an iconic feature of the novel, but I actually think this change is inspired. Much of the story’s growing sense of dread is dependent on the physical and psychological disconnect between the town’s children and their caretakers, and what time period is better at illustrating that than the decade that spawned the term “latchkey kid?”
I can absolutely see the disillusioned members of the Losers Club running off to play in the Barrens while their parents disappear on business trips or drink themselves into oblivion in front of the television.
8. IT’s minor victims make important appearances
Number one on my wish list for this remake of IT was the inclusion of Patrick Hockstetter – and here he is! Patrick has no speaking lines in the trailer, but he shows up first in the hallways of Derry Elementary and again on a poster advertising his disappearance.
I have no wish to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t read the book, but Pennywise’s dealings with Patrick Hockstetter are officially the high point for fear in IT. To see it portrayed – even partially – would be a huge win for this adaptation.
We also get a glimpse of Betty Ripsom (she of the name-in-shoe inscription). Betty forms the center of one of IT’s scarier anecdotes, in which an adult Mike Hanlon learns that Betty’s parents heard voices speaking to them from the kitchen sink in the days after their daughter’s death:
“I heard Betty somewhere down in those friggin’ pipes. Laughing. She was somewhere down there in the dark, laughing. Only it sounded more like she was screaming, once you listened a bit. Screaming and laughing down there in the pipes.”
The inclusion of such peripheral characters lends credence to film and seems to indicate the studio is interested in doing it right. If not, well, at least we can make terrible puns about shoe-horning in random details from the novel.
10. Pennywise is a straight-up nightmare
And here we arrive at the critical point. No IT adaptation can hope to succeed without a great Pennywise, and it’s still unclear whether Bill Skarsgård is going to deliver.
The 1990 miniseries was a study in low-budget embarrassment, but nearly everyone agrees that Tim Curry turned in a great performance. From what we’ve seen so far, Skarsgård’s Pennywise is set to be far more physically terrifying than Curry’s – he’s all yellow eyes, bleeding paint, and ratty turn-of-the-century clown costume. Unlike with Curry’s innocuous-until-he-grows-fangs presentation, there’s no doubting that this Pennywise is a cold-blooded killer.
According to producers, the choice was deliberate. Skarsgård’s appearance is meant to emphasize the agelessness and malevolence of It. It’s a valid argument, but there’s also something to be said for a lighter touch.
In the novel, the terror of Pennywise is often revealed in minutiae – a stray detail out of place in an otherwise faultless tableau. When Ben Hanscom first meets IT, the clown he sees isn’t alarming. It’s the backdrop of the frozen canal and the bitter cold of late evening that embues the scene with unease. And then, suddenly, Ben realizes the clown’s balloons are floating against the wind.
This film’s stark presentation of Pennywise is good – it’s understated, abrupt, and menacing. But it doesn’t convey any of that ominous discord that made IT so memorable.
Ultimately, whether Skarsgård will effectively terrify as Pennywise remains to be seen. And given that the film seems to have gotten so many things right, I’m going to give the studio the benefit of not doubting they’re interested in more than “OMG, creepy clown!”
I’m cautiously optimistic for this one.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve read IT an embarrassing number of times and I have pretty strong feelings about how it should be portrayed on screen. Things like Beverly’s short hair and the fact that Mike – not Bill – is carrying a gun bother me. I’m probably going to squirm a lot and need to see the movie twice before I can develop a clear-eyed opinion.
But this new trailer looks pretty good. Tonally, it’s right on, and as long as the overarching themes of friendship, fear, and childhood trauma – along with a good clown-related scare or two – are present, I’ll be happy.
It floats into theaters September 8, 2017.