Is Stephen King’s It A Slasher Movie? Pennywise’s Problem Explained

While Stephen King’s It is often called a slasher movie online, the unique modus operandi of its villain Pennywise means that the horror hit doesn’t technically fit that descriptor. The slasher genre is a horror mainstay, as is It author Stephen King. From the Friday the 13th franchise to the Scream series, slasher movies have been terrifying audiences since the late 70s.

Similarly, King has been scaring readers and viewers alike since his explosive 1974 debut Carrie. However, as unlikely as it may seem, King has never authored a conventional slasher story. Some of his efforts, like The Dark Half, stray near the sub-genre, and he once pitched a Friday the 13th novel from the perspective of Jason Voorhees entitled “I Jason.“


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However, despite how prolific the author is and his iconic status as a horror writer, King has never written a straightforward slasher. Perhaps because of this surprising fact, the 2017 adaptation of King’s hit It (soon to be given a TV prequel) is often listed online as one of the greatest 2010s slashers. However, since most of Pennywise’s victims don't die when the villain pursues them, the movie’s body count is very low and It hardly counts as a conventional slasher as a result. Pennywise’s unusual modus operandi means he kills almost no characters onscreen after the opening scene, with a possessed Henry Bowers ending as many lives as the movie’s main villain. As a result, It is heavily influenced by slasher tropes, but the 2017 hit doesn’t qualify as a full-blown slasher itself.

A collage of slasher movie killers Ghostface, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees

Thanks to the adaptation’s decision to drop the source novel’s ambitious time-hopping structure, there is an argument to be made that It functions like a slasher. Cutting everything from It’s Maturin the Turtle to the Ritual of Chud (which can at least be seen in the lesser 2019 sequel), 2017’s It acts as an effective standalone story wherein young victims are stalked one-by-one in inventive chase sequences before a terrifying monster attacks them. With this description in mind, it is worth noting that the movie fits many of the slasher archetypes and, as such, it is tempting to call It an example of the horror sub-genre. However, slasher movies not only generally have a larger body count than It, but they are also typically more concerned with their villain than the Stephen King adaptation.

Classic slashers like Friday the 13th and Halloween feature scenes from the killer’s perspective while the Scream movies go as far as making one for the main characters themselves the killer. Stephen King’s It misses this slasher movie trick as the movie focuses on the exploits of the Loser’s Club more than Pennywise, with few sequences being seen from the clown’s POV. The Loser’s Club also doesn't suffer extravagantly complex deaths (a staple of the sub-genre), their killer doesn’t have a motive (with Pennywise being an ageless ancient evil entity rather than a sentient person), and there is no Final Girl, with the group only surviving because they can gang up on the villain together. Thus, while Stephen King’s It certainly has many hallmarks of a slasher movie, the adaptation doesn’t qualify for inclusion in the sub-genre.