The big screen adaptation of Stephen King's It may be the scariest movie mainstream audiences will see in 2017. From its creepy antagonist — a killer clown who drags his child victims into the sewer — to the bullies that populate the town of Derry, there are plenty of reasons to watch this movie through your fingers. But the scariest moment of them all is actually the film's first scene. Georgie's death in the 2017 It remake is violent, graphic, and truly terrifying — and there's a very specific reason for this, according to the film's director, Andy Muschietti.
"From a technical point of view, it's the introduction of the monster," he says in a bungalow at the Beverly Hilton during the Los Angeles press day for the film. "You can't hold back on the intensity if you want to scare audiences. It was an investment. You have to hit them hard so the monster is scary for the rest of the movie, even when he's not there."
Spoilers for the film and book will follow. For those unfamiliar with the scene from the 1,000-plus-page novel or the 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry, here's the premise: It's a stormy afternoon in Derry, Maine. Georgie's big brother Bill is sick with the flu, so, to keep his little brother entertained, he builds him a paper boat to float down the watery sidewalk. But when Georgie's boat falls into the sewer, Pennywise, the killer clown living in the sewer, catches it. He taunts Georgie to take it back from him, and when he finally tries, Pennywise reaches out and rips Georgie's arm off. In some versions, Georgie bleeds to death by the sewer. But in the 2017 iteration, Georgie attempts to crawl away, but is dragged into the sewer by Pennywise, never to be seen again. But because his body isn't found, it prompts big brother Bill to go looking for him.
Seeing a child die on screen is never an easy pill to swallow, but the utter lack of censorship in Georgie's death immediately sets the sinister tone of the film. And it's clear that in 2017's It, anything goes.
"It's the scariest part because it's the most graphic — very intense and macabre, if you will," the Argentinian director says. "If it wasn't for that scene, you wouldn't have the tension that you have when Pennywise isn't present."
Though Georgie's death is certainly the most horrifying moment of the big screen iteration, it isn't the only moment that may send audiences screaming. The entire film, not unlike the book, is chalked full of terrifying moments.
"I wanted it to be as close to the spirit of the book as possible," he says. "If this wasn't conceived as an R-rated movie, I wouldn't have done it."
Part of creating a world audiences would instantly fear was casting the right person to play Pennywise, for a hair-raising villain was of paramount importance. Though sans makeup, prosthetics, and costume, 27-year-old Bill Skarsgård looks like a Hollywood heartthrob, he transforms into the killer clown with absolute believability, making Georgie's run-in with the creature all the more terrifying.
"He's actually like, really hot," says Barbara Muschietti, the film's producer and Andy's sister.
"But he can turn weird in a second," Andy adds. "He is cute, innocent, has childlike features, but he can turn that into something evil."
Juxtaposed with Georgie's childlike curiosity and vulnerability, the monster's physical appearance — both childish and sinister — is indeed a creepy cocktail. Though audiences may be mourning Georgie's death long after they leave the theater, the Muschiettis' goal of terrifying viewers from the opening scene onward will be undoubtedly achieved.