If you’ve been online in the past few days (and if you’re reading this, you obviously have been, because my carrier pigeon service doesn’t go into effect for another week), you’ve probably seen or at least heard about the new It trailer. I’ve been skeptical of this movie for a few reasons: (1) I’m a snob who usually hates remakes (I’m looking at you, Black X-Mas); (2) the new Pennywise character design reminds me of Little Lord Fauntleroy; and (3) bitch, you ain’t Tim Curry.
I don’t look back on the It miniseries with completely rose-colored glasses; it was uneven and boring in spots and most definitely did not stick the landing. But Tim Curry’s performance is rightly considered one of the best in horror history; it is so iconic and creepy that the idea of a remake feels like blasphemy, even if the movie surrounding Curry doesn’t earn that level of adulation.
My snobbery notwithstanding, I do enjoy remakes when they bring something new to the story – for example, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The 1956 film (which I love) is a chilling depiction of Cold War-era paranoia. Despite the dark tone, however, the movie ends on a somewhat hopeful note (which the studio forced on director Don Siegel), as Kevin McCarthy runs to the FBI to stop the spread of the pod people across the country. The altered ending tells the audience that they may not be able to trust their friends or neighbors, but they can trust the American authorities to save them from the Communist menace.
In the 1978 version, that faith and trust in the authorities is gone, replaced with the disillusionment and hopelessness of post-Vietnam and post-Watergate America. In the remake, you can’t trust your friends or neighbors, but you damn sure can’t trust the U.S. government either. Kevin McCarthy’s brief appearance in the ’78 film – desperate, disheveled, and still yelling about the pod people – tells us that the FBI didn’t help him in ’56 and they won’t help him now. He bridges the chronological and philosophical gap between the two films and affirms the 1956 version’s original message: there is no one who can save you, not even yourself.
The callback to the original film enriches the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers; in the case of It, however, I think the opposite will hold true. Based on the trailer, new Pennywise Bill Skarsgård seems to be wisely steering clear of a Tim Curry impression. Hopefully, his Pennywise will indeed be different than Curry’s but no less terrifying. I’m looking forward to finding out in September whether It will join Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the rare remake that matches or exceeds the quality of the original.