Pennywise dis-arms in secret Comic-Con footage from Stephen King's It
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"It's a great moment to be alive. Because It is coming back, after all this time."
That's how director Andy Muschietti introduced three reels of footage from the upcoming Stephen King adaptation as San Diego Comic-Con kicked off Wednesday night.
At a packed theater in the Gaslamp District, the director showed two scenes from the Sept. 8 movie and a new trailer — each progressively more disturbing than the last. None of it is being released beyond that theater, but EW was in the audience to recap what went down.
King himself appeared in a video message to torment his fans: "It remains one of my most personal works so I'm delighted it's finally making it to the big screen," the author said. "Enjoy this exclusive look… if you can."
The first preview showed the more Stand by Me elements of King's epic novel about a group of abused outcasts who unite to take on the shape-shifting evil that feeds on fear and lives beneath their town.
"It is a horror movie, but it's not only that," Muschietti told the audience beforehand. "It's a story of love and friendship and a lot of other beautiful emotions. Our main characters are The Losers, as you know, and this clip is the first moment of the story when we see them blend and start forging that friendship."
The shot opens on a summer afternoon. Picture perfect sky. A forest of emerald leaves. And five white blotches standing on a cliff.
This is only part of The Losers Club — Bill Denbrough (Midnight Special's Jaeden Lieberher), whose little brother Georgie was snatched by It the autumn before; wisecracking Richie "Trashmouth" Tozier (Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard); small-fry and hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer); the logical, prepared Boy Scout Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff), and chubby Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor).
Ben's belly has a massive bandage on it, covering the "H"-shaped scar left there when the psychopathic local bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) tried to carve his name on the heavyset boy's stomach.
These are happier times, though. The five boys are clad only in their tighty-whities, and they're peering over the edge of the cliff into the green water of a quarry below. They spit over the side, trying to gauge how long the drop really is. Soon, they're quarreling over who is going to be the first to take the leap.
"I'll go," says a voice from behind them. It's Bev Marsh (Sophia Lillis), the tomboy with the scarlet hair. She parks her bike and removes her sundress in seemingly one motion.
The boys are dumbstruck. She's not showing anything that a bathing suit wouldn't reveal, but still… The boys would probably fall backward off that cliff if they had to look at her a moment longer.
But they can't, because she's rushing past them, not hesitating. Then she's in mid-air, legs pedaling nothingness as she plummets fearlessly into the deep.
"Holy s–t, we just got showed up by a girl," one of them snaps.
With that, each of them plops over the side — and the six kids, tormented relentlessly at school and each dealing with complications and pain at home that force them to grow up before their time, are finally just kids again. Splashing. Swimming. Stealing looks at beautiful Bev, who pretends not to notice.
Respect for their friend finally overwhelms their hormones, and the boys stop leering.
Then they're all drying off on the rocks, and Ben — the newest of the friends — pulls out a little local history project he's been putting together. "I first moved here, I didn't have anybody I knew. So I just started spending time at the library."
"You went to the library… on purpose?" Richie sneers.
There are newspaper clippings about an Iron Works explosion that claimed scores of lives. Another about "The Black Spot," an African-American dance club that was burned down in 1962 by a group of racists — with lots of people inside.
"Why is it all murders and missing kids," one of them asks.
"Derry's not like any town I've ever been in before," Ben answers. "They did a study once, and it turns out people die or disappear here at six times the national average."
"You read that?" Bev asks.
"That's just grown-ups. Kids are worse. Way worse," Ben says. "I've got more stuff if you want to see it…"
Stan shakes his head. He doesn't.
There is a seventh Loser — Mike Hanlon, played by Chosen Jacobs, who is one of the only black people in the town of Derry, so he deals with abuse and hostility on a constant basis. He gets it worst of all from the bully Henry Bowers, who learned his hatred of Mike from his racist father, who in the book has spent years tormenting the Hanlon family.
Henry and his two cronies, Belch Huggins (Jake Sim) and Victor Criss (Logan Thompson), have chased Mike to a creekside, where they've pinned his face against the rocks. Outnumbered, Mike's eyes search desperately for help. What he sees is a clown, watching him from the treeline.
The clown waves a hand… but it's not his hand.
It's a child's hand, ripped off at the elbow. Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgard) has been nibbling on the raw end, based on the blood smeared around his smile.
Mike squints. He can't believe what he's seeing. He doesn't know it yet, but the demented glee the bullies are taking in beating on him is what drew It from its lair. Either they're feeding off of It, or It is feeding off of their manic violence.
The boys become even more unhinged. As Mike struggles, Henry lifts a softball-sized rock and raises it over his head, prepared to bash in the black boy's skull.
Before he can bring it down, another rock whistles through the air and slams into the side of his own head. Henry reels back, stunned. The bullies look across the stream to see the six Losers.
Bev is standing closest, shoulders back, breathing hard. Braced for a fight. "Nice throw," Stan tells her.
Ben, who has tasted violence from these guys before, isn't about to let them do the same to another kid. He picks up another rock and hurls it across the stream.
"ROCK WAR!!!" Richie bellows as the bullies retaliate with a stone to the center of his forehead, knocking him on his ass.
After a barrage of rocks between the two groups, the bullies are wounded and Henry's two friends limp off into the woods in retreat.
Richie, recovering from his hit, calls Bowers a "mullet-wearing a—hole!" as the bully recognizes defeat and chases after his friends.
Then we cut to train tracks (more Stand by Me vibes) and Mike is walking in the single-file line of his newfound friends as they cut a path through a field. "Thanks, guys, but you shouldn't have done that. He'll be after you too now," he says.
"I guess that's one th-th-th-thing we all have in common," says Bill, who is also teased for his stutter. "Welcome to the Loser's Club."
The scene ends with the seven of them united as one.
"This is a meaningful moment in the book and the miniseries where the Losers discover the power of being together — the power that comes from being together," Muschietti told the audience.
The young actors were also on hand and spoke about what the term "Losers" meant to them. "It's cool to be part of a group," Jacobs said. "We all want people who relate to us. But we all have our attributes that make us weird in the public view. So we're okay being called Losers, as long as we have each other."
The It presentation's unsettling finale was a preview of the next trailer for the film, which won't be released for another week. This returned focus to the movie's villain — the nameless, shapeless evil that dwells beneath the town of Derry, Maine.
"Pennywise is one of the greatest monsters of all time," Muschietti said. "The idea of reimagining Pennywise to me means it's important to stay true to the essence of the character, but also bring some edge to it — something people won't expect to see."
The trailer begins with an aerial shot of tiny, perfect Derry: beautiful old buildings, a main street, tree-lined roads, and nice, quiet homes. A boy's voice is heard. (It's difficult to tell who, but I think it's Stan Uris, speaking before the synagogue at his bar mitzvah.)
"When you're a kid, you think the universe revolves around you. That you'll always be protected and cared for. Then, one day, you realize that's not true," the boy says.
There's footage of Ben Hanscom being held down by the bullies near a bridge. They've got his shirt pulled up, and Henry Bowers is carving his initials on the heavy kid's stomach.
A car rolls by and slows down. Inside is an older couple, both of them looking at this outrageous violence. Then they roll away. As the car grows smaller, Ben sees a single red balloon rise from the back seat.
Then we see Georgie Denbrough, Bill's little brother, in his yellow slicker, sailing a paper boat down a rain-swollen gutter. It vanishes into the mouth of a storm drain.
"‘Cause when you're alone as a kid, monsters see you as weaker," the boy's narration continues. "You don't even know they're getting closer. Until it's too late."
In the blackness of the drain, two eyes glimmer. Then a face emerges. Pennywise the Dancing Clown. He's holding the boat.
"Here… " It whispers. "Take it …"
Then we see the street again. The storm drain. But no boat. No clown. And no Georgie.
"All the bad things that happen in this town are because of one thing. An evil thing," Mike Hanlon says.
The Losers are flipping through ancient history, looking at woodcut drawings from centuries past, depicting clashes and conflagrations from Derry's history. Throughout them, there is a familiar face in the crowd: the same one we just saw in the storm drain.
In the dim light of Bill Denbrough's house, he follows a pair of small muddy footprints through the kitchen, where a tiny figure in a yellow slicker darts by.
He follows the specter of his brother into the basement, where Georgie — or whatever is pretending to be Georgie — is hiding beside a shelf. There's rainwater covering the floor. The basement is flooded.
A pair of amber eyes rise out of the black surface.
"If you come with me, you'll float, too," Georgie's ghost says cheerfully.
Somehow, Bill lives to tell his friends about the encounter: "I just saw something…."
"The Clown," one of his friends asks.
"I saw him too," chimes in Eddie, the weakest of the bunch, the most timid.
Then we see a fogged over blue window. Two orange glowing eyes stare from the face of the blurry clown. Deadlights.
"What happens when another Georgie goes missing?" Bill asks his friends. "Are we just going to pretend it didn't happen, like everyone else in this town? Or will we stick together."
On the soundtrack there is the hellish, throbbing chant of a thousand Georgies, shrieking "You'll float, too… You'll float, too… You'll float, too…"
Then silence. Richie Tozier enters a shadowy room. It's full of clown dolls. All different types. Large and small.
One of them turns its face toward him as he passes. Then another. At the center of the room stands an especially menacing one. Pennywise lifts his face, revealing needle sharp teeth, and lunges forward screaming in a way that suggests part rage, and part glee.
Then, it's over.
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Stephen King's It