How the ’80s became pop culture gold dust

Tom Kirby /
Sep 15, 2017 / Film & TV

You’ll float too, we all float down here”. It’s a sentence that still gives me the chills.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Argentinean director Andrés Muschietti has brought Stephen King’s 1986 masterpiece, It, to a whole new generation of cinema-goers – and, for those old enough to remember it the first time around, a reminder of why they fear clowns. The first chapter of the supernatural horror follows the story of seven children living in King’s fictional town of Derry, Maine which becomes terrorised every twenty-seven years by a shape-shifting monster that often takes the form of a malevolent clown known as Pennywise. The seven children, christened the ‘Losers Club’, must unite to fight Pennywise and stop more children from being kidnapped and killed by the supernatural predator.

The film features a pantheon of  young actors including Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, as well as Bill Skarsgård as the infamous Pennywise. While Skarsgård’s much darker and sinister portrayal of Pennywise more than fills Tim Curry’s oversized clown shoes, it is, in fact, the members of the Losers Club that catch the eye. The rising stars’ on-screen chemistry is nothing short of brilliant, and each one embodies their character completely. The crude teen jokes – often courtesy of Wolfhard’s character, Richie –during the lighter moments provide much-needed comic relief, while the level of acting sets it far beyond the now dated and somewhat cheesy 1990 portrayal.

For any fan of King’s, one of the biggest diversions from the book comes in the form of the setting. Initially set in 1957-1958, the new adaptation sees Derry terrorised by Pennywise between 1988-1989. From the very first scene, the film is quintessentially 80s; be it the Gremlins and Beetlejuice posters in Bill’s room, or the soundtrack which features The Cure, Young MC and, most importantly, a certain group by the name of New Kids on the Block. Furthermore, the cinematography, while breathtaking, shares close similarities to that of the Netflix series Stranger Things, retaining that certain magic about it that makes the classic films from that era feel so unique. If the visuals and music weren’t enough, then the montage of a group of kids riding their bikes is certain to remind you of films such as ET and The Goonies (wait, didn’t Stranger Things do that too?).

How the ’80s became pop culture gold dust

It’s no secret that cinema’s obsession with ’80s nostalgia has completely dominated the last decade. Look back to as early as 2011 when James Sallis’ Drive got its big-screen adaptation courtesy of Nicolas Winding Refn. The movie, though set in present day, had a thoroughly 80s based, synthesised soundtrack, while harking back to the pulpy violence synonymous with B-movies from the decade. Similarly, Black Mirror writer Charlie Brooker leant on the 1980s hype for his episode ‘San Junipero’ in 2016, using fashion, music and visuals to wet our nostalgic appetite; it proved highly successful too, with the episode soon became a fan favourite. The Duffer Brothers brought a group of kids fighting other-worldly beings to our screens with Stranger Things (hold up, a group of kids? Who ride around on bikes? To combat a monster?), while ’80s-based shows like Narcos along with a brand new Blade Runner film on its way add weight to the trend. It probably made sense to Cary Fukunaga, the original author of the screenplay, to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon, three years before Stranger Things even hit Netflix. Muschietti, however, doesn’t rub the decade in our faces. Instead, the director cleverly allows the period to linger on the outskirts of the screenplay as to not distract from the story; he uses it to invoke experiences felt by ’80s youths (seriously did you guys actually go biking that much?), while giving slight nods to classic 80s horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

It couldn’t have been released at a better time, with the second season of Stranger Things set to hit Netflix on the 27th October and Halloween being just over a month away. Audiences are hungry for dual dose of both 80s nostalgia and a jolly good fright. Perhaps our very obsession with the decade and its heavy influence on our pop culture through films, TV and music are due to the fact that these 80s children are now the ones creating and producing products; while it’s a highly logical explanation for the sheer amount of 80s themed media during this decade, the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It proves that our obsession continues to influence modern pop culture.

How the ’80s became pop culture gold dust

Words by Tom Kirby

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