One of the things that separates the titular monster in IT from other movie monsters is that it can take the form of whatever it needs to in order to achieve its ultimate goal: terrifying children and then, well, eating them.
Of course, IT most often takes the form of Pennywise the dancing clown, but he’s also been known to transform into everything from a wolf man to a homeless leper. In Andy Muschietti‘s new adaptation, IT appears to young Stanley Uris as a brand new creation from Muschietti’s own mind: a flute-playing, unnatural-looking woman who literally emerges from a painting that hangs in the office of Stanley’s father. Stanley is terrified of the painting, and rightfully so, which IT naturally preys upon to a nightmarish extent.
You may have noticed that the woman from the painting, played by actress Tatum Lee, looks a whole lot like the title character from Muschietti’s previous film, Mama. Both Mama and the new Pennywise form, named Judith in the film’s credits, have the same elongated, deformed face, as well as the same set of eerily vacant eyes.
Was Judith brought into IT as Muschietti’s way of paying homage to his debut horror effort? Well, maybe. But in a chat with New York Times this week, Muschietti revealed that the inspiration behind Judith was actually Italian-Jewish artist Amedeo Modigliani, whose paintings clearly also inspired the look of Mama.
“It’s a literal translation of a very personal childhood fear,” Muschietti told the site, narrating the scene where Judith first appears. “In my house, there was a print of a Modigliani painting that I found terrifying. And the thought of meeting an incarnation of the woman in it would drive me crazy.”
He continued, describing the late Modigliani’s work…
“He often does these portraits with elongated characters. His vision of humans were with elongated necks, crooked faces and empty eyes most of the time. It was so deformed that as a child, you don’t see that as an artist’s style. You see it as a monster.”
Just as IT takes the form of whatever scares any given child, it sounds like Modigliani’s paintings have haunted Andy Muschietti ever since he first laid eyes on them as a child. That childhood fear has clearly stuck with him all these years, haunting his early horror work and resulting in the creation of two truly terrifying movie monsters.
Check out some of Modigliani’s actual paintings below.