Everyone expected It to be a hit, but no one guessed just how big a hit It would be. The adaptation of the Stephen King novel had the largest opening ever for a horror movie ever and continued its momentum into this past weekend, crossing $US200 million ($251 million). We talked to the film’s director and producer duo, Andy and Barbara Muschetti, to try and find out why.
Andy Muschetti on the set of It. All Images: Warner Bros.
Many have pointed at the film’s memorable marketing, positive reviews, and lack of box office competition to explain the runaway success, and those all surely played a role. But the people who made the film have a much more primal answer to why the film was such a success. “I don’t think [audiences] quite expected such an emotional connection with the story,” director Andy Muschetti told us. “That’s what I take from, not only working on the movie, but the reactions. When I hear them, and I read them, people are very attached emotionally to the journey of these kids. Which is not really frequent for horror movies.”
The siblings gauged those reactions by sneaking into an 11:00PM screening of It on its opening night in Hollywood. “We kept on looking back to see the reactions, and of course, people were terrified at moments and laughing at other moments,” producer Barbara Muschetti said. “But mostly, through the film, they had faces of joy. There was wonder in the room. They were smiling. That is what we remembered when we would see films like Close Encounters or Back to the Future, people just experiencing joy in a room packed with people. And there’s nothing like that.”
Certainly that wasn’t the case for the other major Stephen King adaption, The Dark Tower, which hit theatres a few weeks prior and basically received the exact opposite reaction: Critical dismay and audience rejection. Barbara Muschetti thinks it’s impossible to compare the two works because they’re so different, but Andy feels that’s why It was an easier sell than The Dark Tower.
“It is a story that can be told without that fantastic element,” he said. “It‘s a story about a group of kids who are lonely and oppressed and they learn to get powerful by getting together. So the fantastic elements are sort of on the backburner and that’s why people connect [with it]. It’s a human story.”
The Dark Tower is much less relatable, specially at the start of the story. “In The Dark Tower, we’re almost immediately invited to jump into this world of fantasy,” Andy continued. “That doesn’t mean a lot of people won’t like it. It’s just more genre, I think, and you can’t expect a massive audience to eagerly jump into that reality.”
After the film’s massive success, a sequel to It is already in the works (if the ominous “Chapter One” at the end of the film didn’t clue you in), although no release date has been set. All the Muschettis would tell me is that they are currently working on the story, but they did offer up some hints as to how the sequel will deal with its very different setting and cultural climate, as it will be set in the present day instead of 1989, after the kids of the first movie have become adults.
“It’s going to be in the subtext of the story,” Andy said. “Because the story is basically a parable of a couple of different things. One of them is a straight-up fear of the culture of fear that we live in. Pennywise is a bit of a parallel character to what’s going on right now. It’s a producer of fear, it’s a bringer of division. So, it’s definitely something that we want to put in the movie. I think it’s relevant to the time that we’re living.”
It is now in theatres. Chapter Two is rumoured to be on the way in winter or spring of 2019.