Pennywise will be back to haunt big screens and your nightmares.
Before most audiences can even get a first glimpse of It, which opens today, a sequel to the Stephen King novel adaptation is already on offer for horror fans. So far, Gary Dauberman — who penned the script for the first movie and has also collaborated with It’s production house, New Line, on the Annabelle franchise and its spin-off The Nun — is the only talent confirmed for the next installment. But despite not being official yet, a recent hint from director Andy Muschietti to Italian outlet Bad Taste [via Vulture] more or less confirms Variety’s prediction that he will return for Chapter Two (not an official title).
Chapter Two makes sense as a title, though, given the filmmakers’ decision to split the source material into two separate sections. It (which is also titled It: Chapter One at the start of the end credits) is based on the first portion of King’s classic horror novel, which is set during the youth of its protagonists, while the section of the book that deals with the now grown-up versions of the same characters is left untouched, leaving it wide open for Dauberman’s Chapter Two script.
Given what is and isn’t included in the first installment, what can we expect from the sequel? Originally, King’s book operated on two co-existing timelines — the children’s scenes took place in the ‘50s, and were interspersed with flash forwards to the grown-ups’ episode in the ‘80s — meaning that the novel’s final moments took place in 1985, a year before the book hit shelves in September 1986.
In the decision to advance It’s starting point by three decades — Muschietti’s film has the Losers’ Club grow up in the ‘80s — the first of the director’s films in this franchise is already following a similar zeitgeist-friendly strategy, since the follow-up is set up as taking place in the modern day (give or take a few years). While it’s too early to tell exactly how this new timeline will affect the details of the sequel, it’s quite possible that Chapter Two could take on a meta mood, referencing the clown crazes that have recently plagued the world and our nightmares.
Aside from abandoning the original author’s non-linear storytelling and shifting the action 30 years ahead, Muschietti has been fairly faithful to King’s work in It, so things could go either way for the follow-up. The director could follow the same formula, which is currently proving a hit with critics and has led to box office analysts tipping the film as a possible record-breaking success. However, given his comments to Bad Taste — when asked about the prospects of being granted a bigger budget for the sequel, Muschietti hinted that the studio would give him more money to play with next time around — it seems likely that the director will be allowed a little more creative license for the follow-up.
Financial concerns forced Muschietti to abandon some of his favorite ideas for It, such as expository flashbacks into the creepy clown’s origins, but with the suggestion of an increased budget for the sequel, it is very possible that the sequel will allow us to see these scenes after all.
For instance, It producer Barbara Muschietti (sister to director Andy) has identified one particular moment in the town of Derry’s history that the filmmakers would like to include in a future installment: the Black Spot massacre. Although not occurring in the protagonists’ timeline, this was a particularly horrible moment in King’s book that pointed to Pennywise’s chilling past. In 1930, The Black Spot, a make-shift Derry nightclub set up by black soldiers stationed nearby, was burnt down by a group of the town’s white supremacists. But as Mike Hanlon’s father recanted the tale from his deathbed in the book, he revealed a possible other culprit for the blaze: It, whom he had seen at the club that night, in the form of a giant bird held aloft by balloons. Barbara Muschietti’s suggestion that this episode could serve as Chapter Two’s opening sequence indicates that the filmmakers recognize the unique terror of this scene, and are keen to give It’s follow-up a myth-establishing feel.
It focuses on the emotional bonds King set up between the young members of the Losers’ Club, making the film something like “the Stand By Me of King’s horror canon.” Exploring these themes meant that Pennywise’s cosmic, Stranger Things-esque origins — he escaped from the Macroverse, an alternate dimension also home to the ancient turtle that created the universe by vomiting it up — are never mentioned in the first movie. This was, arguably, a wise decision, given that explaining King’s bizarre, psychedelic addition to creationist theory definitely requires more than the few seconds It could spare. Andy Muschietti has specifically pinpointed this “transdimensional” aspect of the book as meat for Chapter Two, and with a bigger budget expected for the final installment, it’s likely that we’ll get to meet that godlike turtle in all his VFX glory after all.
As far as casting goes, nothing official can be expected for a while, but with Muschietti keen to set up a “dialogue” between the two timelines in Chapter Two, we can anticipate that this week’s release won’t be the last time we see Finn Wolfhard and his crew. For their grown-up Losers’ Club counterparts, the young cast have playfully thrown up some names to think about: Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon) picked Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, Finn Wolfhard would like to see Bill Hader as the adult version of foul-mouthed Richie Tozier, and Sophia Lillis suggests Jessica Chastain would make a good grown-up Beverly Marsh.
Also: Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak) says Jake Gyllenhaal, Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris) says Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom) says Chris Pratt, and Jaeden Lieberher (Bill Denbrough) says Christian Bale. While the young actors have clearly put a lot of thought into their dream casting, Boseman is a particularly great choice, given his track record of distinguishing himself amongst ensembles and Mike Hanlon’s increasingly central role in the book’s second half.
Although casting announcements are still a ways off, we can expect new mythological canon, trippy visuals and a 21st century sense of urgency to inform Pennywise’s cinematic future, whenever It ends up returning to the big screen.