The scene is from the first chapter of the book and, I assume, one of the first scenes in the movie, where Georgie Denbrough floats a paper boat down a gutter in a rainstorm, a boat made for him by his older brother and story protagonist Bill Denbrough – and the boat leads him right into the clutches of the titular monster, in the form of creepy clown Pennywise.
The scene from the book is iconic and represented in the original cover art.
This mournful cover artwork first inspired me to read the book; and then, once I was hooked in, I special-ordered a hardback edition with this dust-jacket art from Waldenbooks. (That’s a very old sentence.) That hardback is falling apart, but I still have it and read from it.
For the record, I first read “IT” as a paperback with Tim Curry’s miniseries interpretation of the clown on its cover.
Further for the record, the miniseries didn’t do such a bad job with this scene either.
Shocker, though – I prefer the preview clip from before “Anabelle.” Let’s break it down …
Even for this small role, the actor playing Georgie, Jackson Robert Scott, gives a head-and-shoulders better performance than Tony Dakota, his miniseries counterpart. This was predictable, though, since we saw some of his acting in the trailers – the authenticity of his mannerisms while alive, and the bone-chilling terror of his ghostly form. Seriously, Dakota wasn’t very scary as Ghost Georgie. Scott is petrifying.
I don’t know if Muschietti is just a better director of actors, the budget and/or shooting schedule was more indulgent, or if it’s just a golden age of child actors, but Scott definitely holds his own with the rest of the young cast (what we’ve seen of them so far).
I’ve remarked often in my earlier blogs that none of the dialogue seems to have been preserved from the book, at least in the scenes we see in the trailer. Well, that’s over. Georgie’s fateful encounter with Pennywise borrows much dialogue from the book. Although the balloons and the “You’ll float too” meme are absent …
Bill Skarsgaard’s Pennywise has drawn some criticism for being too over-the-top creepy in his presentation – i.e. ineffectual for luring little kids. But with the sliver of his face visible through the sewer drain, with his burbling jovial clown voice, Skarsgaard seems jolly and fun. It makes perfect sense that Georgie might warm up to him.
As Georgie does, though, there’s that deeply creepy moment where Pennywise falls silent, his smile disappears, and his face glazes over into a predatory stare. Georgie notices it and pulls back a little. It’s really something to watch – Pennywise seems to have briefly lost his composure and is drooling prematurely over the kill. Then he catches himself and falls back into the happy clown persona, as if realizing that he must keep the act up if he wants to eat today.
Where this scene wins over the miniseries scene is that, as engaging as Tim Curry was as Pennywise, Skarsgaard’s and Scott’s scene together feels like a real cat-and-mouse game. Curry and Dakota were just reading lines – Curry well, Dakota badly. With Skarsgaard and Scott, we feel the stakes. We know Georgie is in danger, but Pennywise effectively lulls him into confidence. From our position as omniscient audience, we know why he is doing it – he is a predator luring prey through deception and dissembling, like a bright lure on a deep-sea angler fish – and we can only watch in fascination as It does what It does so well. The scene cuts to titles before the big reveal of It’s fatal attack, but whereas Curry telegraphs the outcome, my guess is that Skarsgaard’s Pennywise will only reveal his true colors after it is way too late for Georgie, in a jump-scare for the ages.
UPDATE: Other advanced footage shows that Bill definitely does have a stutter.
Which Pennywise scares you more, Tim Curry or Bill Skarsgaard?