2017’s ‘IT’ — A nascent sign of things to come?

The film version of IT has languished in production hell for decades since the competent (but pedestrian) 1990 mini-series. This new adaption of Stephen King’s iconic 1986 novel is steadfastly nearing, its release date ingeniously coinciding with the twenty-seven year hibernation period of the titular monster. As of this week, we have been flung a morsel to sustain us until the feature finds its way to our shores, that being the first official trailer’s release. Within twenty-four hours since its release, the trailer netted in excess of 197,000,000 views, easily smashing the record hitherto set by The Fate Of The Furious for most watched trailer in a single day, ever.

For a film deeply set within the polarising, regularly misunderstood genre of horror, this is unprecedented and potentially a watershed development for those that pen such dark, gruesome tales, which could even be of tremendous import and benefit to us Antipodean horror writers.

So, having viewed the trailer an obscene amount of times myself, and decidedly concluded that it is both faithful to the source material and promises to be a thrilling ride, I find myself asking — what has triggered such a rampant worldwide interest in a tale guaranteed to lastingly terrify, particularly those adverse to such movies?

I’d like to believe that nearly two hundred million people are avid fans of, and well-versed in, the macabre writings of Stephen King. He does undoubtedly have one of the largest readerships of any author, spoiling them for choice with a wealth of nearly sixty books, and literally hundreds of short stories, many of which have film counterparts directed by the likes of inimitable, legendary director Stanley Kubrick. King also maintains close ties with his fans throughout social media (and being one of the first writers to do so).

Perhaps then his established fan-base have aided in generating so much hype about the upcoming IT through their own social media accounts, utilising the share button when the trailer first appeared on relevant film and King-dedicated sites (I know I did my part for the cause in that regard). Maybe it’s also the contents of the trailer, captivating both those not even passingly familiar with the source text and those that have roamed the pitch-dark labyrinth of Derry’s sewers by repeatedly reading the novel over the past thirty years since its release.

The editor deftly condenses a 1,000+ page tome of a novel into a brevity-conscious introduction to the Loser’s Club and their deadly battle with the seemingly invincible eponymous character, a monster able to shape itself into their greatest fears at will. The trailer also features plenty of juicy Easter eggs threaded throughout for eagle-eyed fanatical fans, whilst avoiding the pitfalls many a trailer succumb to — overdoing it and inherent to the ‘monster’ genre — showing too much of said monster.

This deliberately subdued trailer is doubtless due at least in part to the man at the helm of the production, Argentinian filmmaker, Andres Muschietti, a relative newcomer who established himself as a soon-to-be-auteur of the horror genre with his critically well-received debut feature, 2013’s Mama. The role would’ve been a daunting one, even for someone as undeniably talented as Muschietti, as his appointment arose from the departure of Cary Fukunaga (of True Detective fame) who abruptly left when his version was well advanced into pre-production, citing creative differences as the reason for his departure. Those reasons must’ve been mighty indeed, given he had even gone so far as to pen a 130-page screenplay (which is a cracking read and easily available online if you have a hankering to have a squiz) and likely to never be fully revealed.

Argentinian Director, Andres Muschietti

Fukunaga may have been a tough act to follow, through this trailer offers a glimpse at Muschietti’s vision and proves that he hasn’t baulked under such pressure and simultaneously showing what he may have accomplished — potentially a resounding triumph of the craft to withstand the scrutiny of disparaging reviewers and endure the test of time.

Only when we are allowed free reign over the finished product in the form of a full viewing will we know if the Argentinian director has been successful in his epic undertaking, though regardless of that ultimate outcome, the staggering popularity of the trailer could mean great things for the collective future of horror. Could 2017’s IT herald in a new, glorious era of horror, allowing for more interest and therefore, more publication, of original new horror novels? Is the surging popularity of this trailer the embodiment of such a zeitgeist?

Pennywise

Though the genre has oftentimes been reviled and largely dismissed as work without merit by the masses, particularly so within the literary world, the sheer volume of views for the IT trailer (which will also undoubtedly translate into more sales of the novel as King’s array of publishers scramble to capitalise on this renewed interest) has proven that people already had, or have recently acquired, a hellish thirst for all stories horror. This is potentially joyous news, even for us few over on the other side of the pond in Australia. Those that pen horror or dark fantasy in our nation are definitely a small (but dedicated cabal) facing almost insurmountable odds in trying to spark interest in, or secure themselves a publisher within the Aus-lit obstinately minded Australian literary biz. With but a handful of sites, and only the one real journal, Aurealis, dedicated to writing heavily of the dark fantastique genre (which also broadly shares publishing space with sci-fi and more high-fantasy based stories) we are a small group of brave, visionary writers that are frequently overlooked, or outright shunned, by the mainstream publishing world. With the hugely anticipated film adaption of IT and, similarly, Starz-produced show based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, publishers might be forced to take note of the shifting trend in the reading public’s reading habits.

This could then conceivably mean a gradual increase in publishing works that do not conform to the Aus-lit mould, works previously considered too risky and not offering enough of a chance for a fiscal return to such an investment, due to gruesome subject matter commonly found in horror works. An age of all-Aussie Stephen Kings and Neil Gaimans, with their works attaining both commercial success and critical accolades (think Bram Stoker award — if you’re going to aim, aim high!) here in our island continent home and the world at large.

For now, though, we few that pen such horrifying works must huddle together around the fluttering flame of unity, stoking the embers against the guttering of adversity, via connections formed through social media and sites such as Writer’s Bloc. These are fine tools to connect with others and use it as a platform through which to share your work and (like all good, encouraging writers) helpfully and not unduly harshly critique the work of your contemporaries. If you find yourself with a strong squad of like-minded individuals, why not scrape together some seed money and plant it into the root of a new, boutique publishing house specialising in horror and dark fantasy? One that caters only to those who have had their literary voices snubbed or stifled by the ‘safer’ genres. For such renegades could champion a movement that brings horror to prominence, where it so richly belongs.

Let’s make a concerted effort to achieve this and celebrate with a sneaky screening of IT whenever Pennywise decides to grace our shores.

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