At the risk of sounding insufferably nerdy, I can’t quite explain how devastated I was when Cary Fukunaga left his adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal horror novel It. It was such a perfect pairing of sensibilities that it was simply too beautiful for this world. Fukunaga left the production, and at the time we were told it was over issues concerning the budget. Speaking to Variety, Fukunaga says that wasn’t the case at all.
“I was trying to make an unconventional horror film. It didn’t fit into the algorithm of what they knew they could spend and make money back on based on not offending their standard genre audience. Our budget was perfectly fine. We were always hovering at the $32 million mark, which was their budget. It was the creative that we were really battling. It was two movies. They didn’t care about that. In the first movie, what I was trying to do was an elevated horror film with actual characters. They didn’t want any characters. They wanted archetypes and scares. I wrote the script. They wanted me to make a much more inoffensive, conventional script. But I don’t think you can do proper Stephen King and make it inoffensive.
Considering Fukunaga’s output, it’s pretty disheartening that New Line couldn’t get on board with something more outside of the box in terms of what they consider to be profitable horror cinema. I’ve said millions of times before but it bears repeating: we need horror movies that are treated like A-movies and not B-movies. That’s not just in regard to their content or budget, but in the way they are marketed and presented. If we ever want to get out of the stranglehold that Blumhouse has on the genre, we need studios to take bigger and more adult-focused risks with the genre. You don’t get a Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, or The Silence of the Lambs by making horror movies that just play to one specific crowd. You need to take a chance and tap into things far more primal and universal if you want to rise above the usual horror landscape.
I recommend reading the full interview as Fukunaga goes into more detail about his take on Pennywise, his extremely personal relationship to the script he and Chase Palmer developed, and a brief mention of approval from Stephen King himself. If anyone out there can actually get their hands on a copy of Palmer and Fukunaga’s scripts, I’d be very, VERY indebted to you if you sent me a copy.
King once described It as his final essay on the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, meaning that he wanted the story to be a definitive omnibus for a certain generation of horror. If New Line just wants to make an easy adaptation of the novel, they’ll miss out on attempting something equally grand, and It is a story that very much celebrates the grand reaching power of horror. If the recent news of Andy Muschietti’s involvement in the adaptation ends up being true, I can’t say I have much confidence in such a goal being realized. It’s going to take a hell of a lot to get me reinvigorated for this project again.
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