Pennywise is back.
The killer clown from Stephen King’s 1986 book returns via the big-screen adaptation “It.” The 1990 TV miniseries first brought the clown to life, courtesy of an inspired Tim Curry performance.
“They all float down here, Georgie,” became the two-part movie’s catch phrase. This time, actor Bill Skarsgard dons the greasepaint and blood-red nose.
Pennywise is getting the bulk of the media attention surrounding the new film. And that’s understandable. We love movie villains, be it Freddy Krueger, Hannibal Lecter or a murderous clown.
Add news reports that professional clowns fear the film’s fallout, and you’ve got even more free publicity for the film.
Only the character isn’t the key reason box office experts say “It” will ring in roughly $60 million over the film’s opening weekend.
It’s the Losers’ Club.
The story’s band of pre-teens serve as “It’s” unlikely heroes. One boy stutters. Another sucks on an inhaler to keep his lungs clear. The group’s sole girl got unfairly slammed as a slut, and the label just won’t wear off.
They’re outcasts, but they summon a courage most of us couldn’t tap. They draw power from not just their friendship but the fact that no one expects much from them.
Today’s Geek Nation can relate. In fact, the book may date back to the Reagan era but it speaks to our current pop culture climate in remarkable ways.
King wrote “It” during the 1980s, a time when nerds needed a major motion picture to stage their “Revenge.” Jocks ruled. Nerds cowered on the sidelines. It was a self-preservation.
Everything’s changed today. Geeks matter more now. High-profile nerds like Mark Zuckerberg are cultural icons. Brainy nerds gather proudly at events like Comic-Con, no longer relegated to the cultural back burner.
That makes “It” even more relevant than ever. A preview audience in Denver echoed those sentiments.
The press screening in question featured both movie critics and general audience members. And when the Losers’ Club rose up to smite Pennywise, the crowd cheered. Several times.
King’s book tapped into that sentiment. For every high school quarterback, there were dozens of kids who didn’t feel like they belonged. That was true then … and today as well.
The horror maestro keenly understands his readers. King preys on not just our obvious fears (killer cars and dogs!) but also the quieter fears that haunt us.
“It” leveraged the latter to glorious effect. It’s happening again now, and it’s more frightening than any creepy clown can be.