Stephen King’s “It” is a powerhouse at the box office. It is a truly remarkable sight to behold. Whether or not you like the movie, there’s no denying that it is like a lightning in a bottle moment for cinema. Horror movies are never this big. Even after seeing “Get Out” slay the box office in a truly unique way earlier this year, it is so odd to see, because this is now the highest grossing horror movie of all time. Including inflation, this is second, but very close to being number one.
It doesn’t hurt that the movie is a lot darker than most mainstream horror movies while not being full on indie dark, but is a lot more polished than what an indie horror movie can deliver. It’s gonna feel like a long wait until 2019 when the sequel comes out to finish the story that the novel delivered. So to hold us over until that time, here are 10 movies that should remind us of this movie in different ways.
10. Super 8 (2011)
JJ Abrams is a man trying to chase the muse of his youth. He is obsessed with the films that created who he is as a director. His style is most definitely informed by his love of film, and no filmmaker has done more to create Abrams than Steven Spielberg.
Many filmmakers to come to the field after Spielberg’s rise can make the same claim. Spielberg rippled throughout cinema and still does. None more so obviously than Abrams. And with this outing, Abrams makes his love very obvious. This is clearly a riff on Spielberg’s work in the 80s like “E.T.” and “The Goonies”.
The movie is technically very accomplished and it has a lot of good stuff in it. But the biggest issue it has is that the movie feels like two stories clumsily spliced together and it doesn’t work. There’s the kid’s storyline which works really well. The kids are well cast and they do good work.
There’s the monster storyline, which is cool. But the movie isn’t long enough to focus on both of these stories to make them as strong as they could, and then the ending that merges them together just doesn’t work. It’s this mixture of kid’s storyline and fantastical monster that really calls out the similarities between this and “It”. As an experiment to see where this balancing act isn’t as well executed as “It”, “Super 8” is super fascinating.
9. Gerald’s Game (2017)
The year 2017 didn’t start off as the greatest year of King adaptations with the TV show “The Mist” embarrassing everyone involved, and “The Dark Tower” movie disappearing immediately upon its release. But then, “Mr. Mercedes” has been a solid piece of work on TV and “It” helped swing the pendulum the other way, because now we have two movies coming to Netflix based on King’s work and they are both winners. “1922” is a solid entry into his cinematic canon, but the real killer entry here is “Gerald’s Game”.
Based on a previously believed to be unfilmable novel, this movie is a stunner. Telling a story that is set in one room and a woman slowly losing her mind, this is an almost all mental gauntlet. The way master filmmaker Mike Flanagan goes about telling this story is quite ingenious and helps to make this a truly cinematic experience. The acting is superb, with a legendary performance by Carla Gugino.
After watching “It”, there’s gonna be a real itch to watch difficult King stories. Not many of them end up working out. So that one has come out so closely to the release of “It”, one of the biggest examples of hard-to-translate stories from King, is quite bizarre but quite fulfilling.
8. Stoker (2013)
One of the biggest reasons that “It” works so well is that the visuals are stunning. There’s a perfect encapsulation of the 80s and the fantasy that time period represents to a lot of people, but with a sickly feel to all of it. There’s something wrong at the edges of the frame, which is fitting since the whole story is about the secret rot in this town.
The visuals here are handled by the great cinematographer, Chung-hoon Chung. A frequent collaborator of Chan-wook Park, this man is a next level director of photography. His work is always gorgeous and elegiac and tinged with danger. That they made the smart move to get him is a good sign that they weren’t messing around and took this all seriously.
If you want to see the man’s work with Park to get a better sense of his mastery, you could choose any of them and not be wrong. But “Stoker” may be the best choice as it is Park’s only English language movie and it deals with a rot inside of a family and the dangers of youth. It’s not an exact 1:1 comparison to “It”, but there’s enough there to make it really fitting that he would jump onto this movie.
7. Mama (2013)
Wanna see where Andy Muschetti got his start? You don’t have to go too far back, as his first movie was in 2013. It’s actually quite insane that “It” is only his debut feature as it is so confident and accomplished. So in watching this movie about a woman taking in an orphan and being beset by some supernatural nonsense, there are some hints at the filmmaker that Muschetti would become.
That is happened so quickly is shocking, but it goes to show what can happen when a studio gives a filmmaker their utmost confidence. And it makes sense that Muschetti was given his blessing by Guillermo del Toro, as he produced “Mama”. Muschetti seemed to be a chosen one in horror. He did not flounder under such massive pressure from all sides. And it all starts here.
6. The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Wes Craven was not a man known for making too many movies that could be described as “fun”. He made smart movies, brutal movies, unique movies. But “fun” is not too frequent a descriptor for his work. Yet this one is really fun. It’s got its horror moments, but this is a rollercoaster ride. It’s fun and never gets too nasty. It feels of a piece with “It” because of its focus on kids in a crazy situation and the use of a house as a horrific locale.
But there’s also the use of poisonous nostalgia to fuel the narrative, as Wes makes his two villains here look and act like deranged versions of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. That little thematic element connects the two without being repetitive.
Focusing on the kids dealing with horrible adults within this thematic context connects it. But there’s also a strong racial connection to this movie that comes out more textually than in “It”, where a racial element is played very subtextually. In his own very unique way, Craven tackled some similar elements that King had tackled. So if you want to see something similar that is so much better than that really bad miniseries, give this a spin.