Courtesy of Hilary Busis at Vanity Fair: At one point in the new adaptation of It, poor Ben Hanscom (played by Jeremy Ray Taylor) goes on a literal Easter egg hunt. His search, naturally, ends with a horrifying discovery—but what the character may not realize is that he’s surrounded by Easter eggs all the time, sly little references to both the Stephen King novel on which It is based and the TV miniseries adaptation that scarred a generation of children in 1990.
Below, find the eight hidden callbacks found while watching the film for the first time (and know that given the obsessive nature of both King fans and the modern blockbuster industry, there are most likely more where these came from). It may go without saying, but, spoilers for both the movie and King’s novel follow.
Hero in a Half Shell
The real hero in It the book turns out to be a mystical turtle god, creator of all life and eternal enemy of It itself. (His name is Maturin, and he has a long and complicated role in the Stephen King multiverse.) While there may be no direct callout to the celestial terrapin in the new movie, there are at least two turtle references. The first comes when the Losers are swimming and one mentions seeing a turtle in the water; the second comes when Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) finds a turtle made of Legos in his dead younger brother’s untouched room. The creation, alas, ends up being another casualty of It; Bill drops it when he’s surprised by a manifestation of the evil spirit.
Hello, Tim Curry!
Bill Skarsgård’s dandified Pennywise is a far cry from the sinister Ronald McDonald that Tim Curry played in the original It miniseries—but if you look closely at the roomful of clowns that Richie (Finn Wolfhard) stares down while trapped in that terrifying house on Neibolt Street, you’ll notice that one of the jokers is actually styled to look just like Curry in his original clown get up. He’s on the left side of the screen, and visible in this trailer around the 2:10 mark.
Derry History 101
Weighing in at a hefty 1,163 pages, King’s novel takes plenty of detours into the strange and violent history of Derry, Maine, a place that has been plagued by unusual disasters basically since the dawn of time. Though the movie doesn’t spend much time enumerating the various catastrophes King delves into, it does make mention of several of them. Ben comes across archival newspaper stories that mention a few while doing research in the library. The kids also reference the Black Spot, a nightclub that catered to Derry’s black population and was “burned down years ago by that racist cult,” while Mike (Chosen Jacobs) makes a delivery to a butcher located next to a mural featuring a painting of the infamous Bradley Gang shoot-out. Both the Black Spot and the Bradley Gang get their own dedicated chapters in the novel version of It.
“He Thrusts His Fists Against the Posts . . .”
In the movie, Bill absently tries to recite this phrase: “he thrusts his fists against the posts, and still insists he sees the ghosts” in order to rid himself of his stutter. He never makes it all the way through, but those who have read the book know that the phrase will play a key role in his ultimate defeat of It. (Interestingly enough, the original tongue twister is something of an Easter egg itself; King lifted it from the 1942 sci-fi novel Donovan’s Brain, where the hero recites it in order to help him resist the [hypnotic power] of the titular evil.
King’s It often takes the form of old Universal movie monsters the Mummy, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, when he terrorizes the children of Derry. Because the flashback action in the movie has been shifted from the 50s to the 80s, those dated monsters were largely nixed from the film, though, during the Losers’ final battle with It, the creature does briefly attack Ben in the form of the Mummy, a throwback to its manifestations in the novel.
Love, Derry Style
Before he’s brutally slaughtered by It, wicked bully Patrick Hockstetter (Owen Teague) is confronted with a red balloon that slowly turns, revealing a message: “I Heart Derry.” That should be familiar to book readers, who will remember that the novel’s second chapter concerns the murder of a gay man named Adrian Mellon, who’s killed in an It-inspired hate crime at the annual Derry carnival—where “I Heart Derry” merch is everywhere. Mellon even dies wearing an “I Heart Derry” hat. (His brutal death was based on a real murder committed in the summer of 1984.)
An aerial shot of the Derry town square in the film reveals a hideous, colorful Paul Bunyan statue, which, in the book, comes to life to terrorize Richie. Both statues are based on this actual fiberglass monstrosity, which towers over Bass Park in Bangor, Maine.
The Last Losers
Pay attention to the order in which the Losers leave their circle at the end of the movie, after swearing to return to Derry as adults should Pennywise ever resurface. The first one to depart is Stan; the next is Eddie. In the book, this is the order in which the Losers die: Stan slits his own wrists to avoid having to face It again, while Eddie is killed during their final skirmish with the creature. (That’s good news, perhaps, for Bill and Beverly (Sophia Lillis in the movie), the last two to leave.)
While Hollywood has suffered one of the worst summers in years, the horror genre is laughing all the way to the bank. Universal kicked the year off with massive successes, including Jordan Peele’s Get Out and M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, both topping $250 million worldwide. Even David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation could topple $300m. While we’re all celebrating these successes none are as important as Warner Bros./New Line Cinema’s IT, which has shattered September records by topping $100 million during its opening weekend.
That $117 million is just in the States, with early international reports just coming in adding $62m to the total. Early Sunday morning estimates have the worldwide gross at $179 million. A $500+ million worldwide total would be some accomplishment, at this stage that looks likely and something no one was saying before last Thursday!
IT could initiate a revival in bigger budget horror…
So soon after the passing of George Romero, it’s sad to report that Tobe Hooper, the horror director best known for helming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist, died Saturday in Sherman Oaks, Calif., according to the Los Angeles County Coroner. He was 74. The circumstances of his death were not known.
The influential 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre became a seminal horror title for its realistic approach and deranged vision. Shot for less than $300,000, it tells the story of a group of unfortunate friends who encounter a group of cannibals on their way to visit an old homestead. Though it was banned in several countries for violence, it was one of the most profitable independent films of the 1970s in the U.S. The character of Leatherface was loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein.
Hooper also directed the 1986 sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which took a more comedic approach, as part of his Cannon Films deal.
The 1982 Poltergeist, written and produced by Steven Spielberg, also became a classic of the genre. The story of a family coping with a house haunted by unruly ghosts starred JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson. The film was a box office success for MGM and became the eighth-highest grossing film of the year.
After Poltergeist, Hooper directed two movies for Cannon Films, Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars, a remake of the 1953 alien movie.
His 1979 CBS miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling novel Salem’s Lot is considered by many fans to be a high-water mark in televisual horror. Combining the intrigue of a nighttime soap opera with the gothic atmosphere of a classic horror film, the two-part program was eventually reedited and released theatrically throughout Europe.
He continued working in television and film throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, but none of the films had the impact of his early works. His other more recent works included Toolbox Murders, Crocodile, and Mortuary.
Among his other works was the music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” In 2011 he co-authored a post-modern horror novel titled “Midnight Movie” in which he himself appeared as the main character.
Hooper continued to work on various TV series and films up until 2013, when his last film, Djinn, set in the United Arab Emirates and produced by Image Nation, was released. He is survived by two sons.
Described as Ghostbusters meets The Matrix in this experimental short film from the makers of Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead!
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Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero, father of the modern movie zombie and creator of the ground-breaking Night of the Living Dead and subsequent franchise, has died at 77.
Romero died Sunday in his sleep after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero died while listening to the score of one his favourite films, 1952’s “The Quiet Man,” with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side, the family said.
Romero jump-started the zombie genre as the co-writer (with John A. Russo) and director of the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, which went to inspire future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating big scares didn’t require big budgets. Living Dead spawned an entire school of zombie knockoffs, and Romero’s sequels included 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s Day of the Dead, 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead and 2009’s George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.
In recent years, as the zombie genre had a resurgence, Romero wasn’t always a fan. He told a British newspaper in 2013 that he’d been asked to do some episodes of The Walking Dead, but had no interest.
“Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” he told the Big Issue. “I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”
Romero took an intellectual view to his depiction of zombies, an approach he found lacking in some of the work that came after him.
“I grew up on these slow-moving-but-you-can’t-stop-them [creatures], where you’ve got to find the Achilles’ heel, or in this case, the Achilles’ brain,” Romero told The LA Times in 2005, referring to the organ whose destruction waylays a zombie. “In [the remake] they’re just dervishes, you don’t recognize any of them, there’s nothing to characterize them…. [But] I like to give even incidental zombies a bit of identification. I just think it’s a nice reminder that they’re us. They walked out of one life and into this.”
A sad day for my fellow horror fans, Romero kick-started so much of what we have come to love over the last 50 years. Rest in Peace.
Revered cinematographer Roger Deakins has ‘never worked on a film with so many different sets and lighting challenges’ as ‘Blade Runner 2049.’
Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 original film looks to be a jaw-dropping mix of visual feats that stay true to both the story and the technical innovation that made Blade Runner an instant classic. Villeneuve acknowledges this legacy, stating “I have massive respect for the world Ridley created. Blade Runner revolutionized the way we see science fiction.”
Villeneuve is likely the right man for the job, as he took science fiction down an entirely new road himself, ostensibly reinventing the hackneyed alien genre with 2016’s Arrival, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in Directing.
Blade Runner 2049 indeed brings several heavy-hitters to the table to help ensure its success, including no less of a cinematographer than multiple Oscar-nominated Roger Deakins, who also shot for Villeneuve on 2015’s Sicario. No stranger to complex action movies (the James Bond hit Skyfall, for one), Deakins admits in the featurette, “I’ve never worked on a film with so many different sets and lighting challenges. Technically, it’s quite challenging.”
Director Neill Blomkamp is known for inventive depictions of extraterrestrial warfare, like in District 9 (2009) and Elysium (2013). True to form, his latest short, Rakka, features a richly textured post-apocalyptic world where humans and otherworldly creatures battle over their entwined fates. And in keeping with sci-fi tradition, the queen of alien ass-kicking, Sigourney Weaver, leads a group of people who have planned a rebellion against the creatures who “came here to exterminate us.”
Rakka does feel somewhat like an extended trailer, and that is by design. The film is the first release from Blomkamp’s new venture, Oats Studios, which is an experimental incubator for feature-length ideas and new storytelling formats. The studio has released the film for free, but asks audiences to support its future work by voluntarily paying for the work in return for some digital assets like scripts, concept art, and 3D models.
Blomkamp told The Verge that Rakka is just the seed of a larger project, whose form is yet unknown. “Rakka feels like it could almost be more of an episodic thing,” he said, “because there’s a lot of avenues to explore. The footage is too unconventional and weird [for a mainstream feature], and the audience has to think of the footage as a snapshot of the window of this world.”