Perhaps it was the year of weirdos dressing as clowns to frighten strangers, or maybe it was just the fact that clowns are inherently terrifying, no matter what the World Clown Association says, but for whatever reason, this year’s reboot of Stephen King’s It really resonated with audiences, and blew away box office expectations.
Horror movies don’t traditionally have that kind of mass appeal. In fact, I’d argue that It wasn’t really a horror film, but a coming-of-age story with added jump scares; perhaps that was a factor that contributed to its success.
Really, the film was about a group of childhood friends vs. the cold, uncaring world. And an evil clown that personified their innermost fears, of course. It was a lot like Stand By Me, but with sinister, surreal imagery, and extreme violence.
If you’re looking for something similar this Halloween, I’ve got a few recommendations ...
Cult of Chucky
Chucky is one of the veteran horror movie monsters, and amazingly, has managed to survive the decades without being remade or rebooted once; he’s still played by Brad Dourif, still looks the same. Instead, Chucky has adapted to the changing times by becoming progressively funnier, and more self-aware with each installment of his franchise.
Like Pennywise, Chucky loves murder, mind games, and one-liners. Cult of Chucky sees the titular Chucky reunited with his surviving victims, who have been institutionalized in a mental hospital due to their crazy stories of a killer doll. Here, Chucky gets creative, possessing multiple dolls at once and running rampant in surreal dream sequences.
The institution is run by a group of corrupt, uncaring authority figures, much like the apathetic adults of It. The patients are almost as powerless as the children, and have to fight an evil that nobody else believes in.
The World’s End
The World’s End is the finale of Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy,” a horror/comedy series with a strong focus on the comedy. The film follows a group of close-knit friends uniting against an otherworldly threat that seeks to break them apart.
This group is not struggling with the challenges of puberty, but trying to escape the mundanity of adulthood. In an attempt to recapture the unbridled joy of their teenage years, the friends reunite for the legendary pub crawl they failed to complete at the end of high school, and find that their quiet little hometown is festering with a dark, apocalyptic secret.
Like It, this film is about the strength of friendship, and persevering against a world that’s out to get you. It’s also a coming-of-age story, technically, except the protagonist came of age a long time ago, and just refused to accept it.
It’s also extremely funny, and the action sequences are insanely inventive, with the drunk, out-of-shape team of middle-aged men just as utterly inept at fist-fighting as you’d expect them to be.
Let Me In
There are two versions of this film, the original Swedish version, Let The Right One In (subtitled), and the American remake, Let Me In. I actually think both are equally good, so pick whichever you’re more comfortable with.
This is another coming-of-age story of friendship, this time between two children, a lonely, bullied boy, and the mysterious new girl in town. But in an intriguing twist, it’s the girl who is the supernatural threat, and when she loses self-control, she’s actually pretty frightening. Luckily, she happens to be on the boy’s side.
The two are isolated from society, the boy constantly under attack from the frighteningly aggressive bullies at school, and the girl struggling against her own dark urges. Like most of the films on this list, the parents are of little help, and it’s up to the children to uncover their own hidden strength.
Not a horror story, but science fiction, Super 8 follows a group of children who capture evidence of a government conspiracy while shooting a low-budget zombie film.
Extremely similar to Stranger Things (which also has a pretty strong It vibe, now that I think of it) Super 8 is a love letter to eighties cinema, particularly the work of Steven Spielberg, featuring antagonistic government agents and a repulsive alien creature with mysterious intentions.
Like It, Super 8 is all about the children, going up against something the adults don’t care to understand, and strengthening their relationship in the process.
It (1990 original)
If you really loved It, I’d actually recommend giving the original adaption a shot (and reading the novel, if you haven’t already). But just to warn you, the 90’s version of It hasn’t aged particularly well. Not only is it a product of its time, it’s also a television series edited together to form a lengthy movie. Frankly, it’s not nearly as polished as this year’s reboot. But it’s definitely worth watching, purely to see the original Pennywise, Tim Curry.
A very different take from Skarsgard's monstrous, otherworldly creature, Curry’s Pennywise is much more human. He’s clearly a middle-aged man wearing a cheap clown costume, who laughs uproariously at his own bad jokes, and somehow, he manages to be absolutely terrifying. This Pennywise seems more likely to molest the children than eat them, and the scene when he coaxes Georgie into the sewer is absolutely skin-crawling.
Without the big budget or the special effects, Curry relies purely on his unsettling charisma - if you’re not already scared of clowns, you certainly will be.
Source: Forbes.com Photos: Brooke Palmer - © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc; Universal Pictures; Universal Pictures/Focus Features; Paramount Pictures; Warner Bros