Andy Muschietti’s 2017 adaptation IT was not meant for television, and that’s what went wrong with the miniseries, which aired on ABC in 1990. (Although, Tim Curry will always have a place in our hearts as the original live-action Pennywise.) Despite what people may have said, this year’s adaptation is not a remake or reboot of the miniseries, but rather a new interpretation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel. In this review, we discuss the film that premiered this weekend. As the title of this article suggests there will be spoilers, so if you have not yet seen the movie nor read the book, do so now and return to this article later.
In this film adaptation of King’s novel subtitled Chapter One, a young child named George Denbrough plays with his paper boat out in the street on a rainy day of October 1988. He becomes victim to a string of murders and disappearances in Derry, Maine.
In the following summer, this transpires once again and one by one, a group of flawed misfits (The Losers Club)–led by George’s older brother Bill–encounter the evil entity which they find to be worse than just a serial killer. They bond in solidarity to stop this malevolent force and become a great power along the way.
- William “Stuttering Bill” Denbrough – This leader of the Losers Club is tall, slim, and his nickname explains the rest. He is plagued by the loss of his younger brother, Georgie.
- Ben Hanscom – Ben is overweight, but his intellect earns him a spot in the group. He pens a haiku poem to Beverly Marsh, a girl whom he has a compassionate crush for. He soon grows jealous when she develops an infatuation with Bill Denbrough.
- Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier – The talkative, eyeglass-wearing, voice-imitating member of the group, Richie is one to crack jokes.
- Eddie Kaspbrak – A hypochondriac who takes medicine and his inhaler wherever he goes, Eddie is controlled by his overprotective and overweight mother.
- Stanley “Stan” Uris – The Jew of the group, Stan is scared by Pennywise more than any other member of the Losers Club.
- Beverly “Bev/ Bevvie” Marsh – The only girl of the group, she is a latchkey kid and is physically abused by her father, Al.
- Mike Hanlon – The final member of the Losers Club and the only African American child in town, Mike is subject to racism.
- Henry Bowers – The psychotic leader of the bullies who terrorizes the Losers, and son of an abusive father
- Pennywise the Dancing Clown/ IT– The shape-shifting otherworldly eponymous evil entity that takes the form of a clown in the eyes of young people, IT primarily feeds off children because their fears are pure and fresh. In addition, IT also has limited telepathy.
IT is a movie worth watching and lives up to its hype. On one hand, the movie has a low budget of $30 million as opposed to the high budget costs the MCU and DCEU have had for their films. The budget concern may be the cause of IT‘s somewhat faulty CGI, but it was enough to scare the audience.
The movie oscillates between horror and comedy. Some viewers say the comedy is too much, and this may be true, although this blend of scares and laughs was what gave the book its essence. What really steals the show is the dialogue exchanged between Jack Dylan Grazer’s Eddie Kaspbrak and Finn Wolfhard’s Richie Tozier. The jokes about birth control, menstruation, and beaver-trapping camps had these two become the highlight of the movie.
Another theme explored in the film is that of fear and faith, although there is more to it than one would hope to expect. (Of course, I am referring to the omitted scenes, more specifically the section of the book on Love and Desire.) Muschietti’s film teaches the audience that it is only when you are alone that IT sees you as vulnerable, but together–with friends that care so deeply for you and you for them–any disaster that comes your way can and will be conquered.
This adaptation of King’s novel has done better than the miniseries, and here is why: The miniseries–at least, the children’s side of the story is what we should discuss until this year’s movie comes back with a sequel–strayed away from the source material. It took place during the time the children were in school, and they did not even venture into the Neibolt house.
Some parts of the book that the miniseries may have done right were including Beverly’s sink situation, Ben’s haiku to her, the Apocalyptic Rockfight between the Losers and the Bowers Gang, and not to mention, of course, Georgie’s first and only encounter with Pennywise. Also, in both the 1986 novel and 1990 miniseries, Ben watched a wheezing Eddie while Bill went to retrieve a refill on Eddie’s inhaler after Henry, Victor, and Belch chased Ben into the Barrens and ruined the two boys’ dam; and the children built the dam again (before being caught by the local Irish policeman Mr. Nell).
Overall, the movie does the book and miniseries justice. Even the author of the novel himself was taken aback by the film. I give this movie a 9/10.
Accuracy to the Novel:
In regards to the film’s accuracy to the book, there were some scenes that were either changed or omitted.
- The most obvious difference is the time period for the Losers; in the book, they are elementary-going-into-middle school children living in 1958, whereas in the movie they are middle-going-into-high school children living in 1989.
- The moment George died – In the book, George has his arm ripped off by Pennywise, and his body is found by a neighbor, Dave Gardener. (Dave’s son Harold went on to interrogate the teenagers that supposedly murdered Adrian Mellon. More about that later.) In the movie, George crawls away from the sewer stormdrain after IT ripped out his arm. He screams in pain, but Pennywise drags George into the sewer. An old woman is the first to notice that George had gone missing.
- In the book, the Losers make a dam in the Barrens and construct an underground clubhouse, even creating a hallucination/vision-inducing smoke in the clubhouse. In the movie, none of this happens at all.
- In the novel and miniseries, Mike Hanlon is the expert on Derry’s history. In the film, this role is instead attributed to Ben Hanscom.
- In the book, Eddie’s pharmacist Mr. Keene tells Eddie that his inhaler is just a placebo. In the movie, fellow classmate Greta Keene–although in the novel, her last name is Bowie–is the person who tells Eddie that his medicine is a placebo.
- In the book, Henry and Mike’s families have a bad history. (Both are raised in the farming life.) Henry’s father makes racist comments towards Mike’s family, primarily Mike’s father. Henry admits to killing Mike’s dog, Mr. Chips, via poison. In the movie, Henry’s father is a policeman. Mike’s parents are both dead and he instead lives with his grandfather at a farm slaughtering sheep. Towards the end of the film, Henry wishes he had caused the fire that killed Mike’s parents.
- In the book, the bullies break Eddie’s arm as he is wandering on his own in the streets of Derry. In the film, Eddie breaks his arm in the Neibolt house after being separated from his friends.
- In the book, the children’s weapon of choice is a slingshot, the ammo being silver slug-like bearings made from coins. Although, the Losers intended on making silver bullets. In the movie, however, their weapon is a type of gun Mike Hanlon uses to slaughter sheep.
- How the young Losers are led into their final confrontation with IT in the book and film are different. In the book, they are chased through the Barrens and have no other choice but to enter a maze of sewer tunnels, leading to IT’s lair. In the film, they enter a well in the basement of the Neibolt home, then travel through sewer tunnels leading to Pennywise’s lair.
- In the book, the children lose some of the silver bearings and instead send IT into hibernation by spraying IT via Eddie’s inhaler and entering the Deadlights. In the movie, they lose the gun’s ammo. IT then gets jumped by the Losers before descending into a dark bottomless pit.
- To avoid controversy, a section from one of the last chapters of the book titled Love and Desire was not included as a scene in the movie.
- In the book, bullies Victor Criss and Belch Huggins die in the sewers during the final confrontation of 1958. In the movie, their fates are left unknown. Perhaps we shall find out in the Director’s Cut or in the sequel.
- Ben meets the other Losers in a way much like the book: After the last day of school, he heads to the library, then leaves, only to be captured by Henry and his friends. As his friends hold the boy in place, Henry carves an “H” into Ben’s bulging gut with his switchblade. He is kicked by Ben, who pushes himself through a fence and down the Barrens. The rest is history, but the book and movie have different outcomes; in the book, Ben sees Bill and Eddie making attempts at a dam, whereas in the film where Ben meets Bill, Eddie, Stan, and Richie as they investigate a missing Betty Ripsom.
- In the film, miniseries, and novel, Beverly hears voices in her apartment’s bathroom drain. Blood gushes out, and after screaming, her father rushes in. However, the bathroom is in pristine condition from his point of view. When he leaves the apartment, Beverly gets the boys’ help into cleaning the blood out of the bathroom. (In the movie, Beverly sticks a measuring tape into the sink before experiencing this; in the book, she does this after they clean the bathroom.)
- The movie does a great job of creating the Apocalyptic Rockfight scene.
- In both the book and movie, this happens (but the details are different): Bully Henry Bowers finds a switchblade in the mail. Pennywise tells him to stab his father in the neck as he sleeps, which Bowers does. Meanwhile, Beverly is attacked by her abusive father, but she escapes. These two events then lead to the children’s final confrontation with IT.
- In both the novel and film, the group use the glass shard of a broken soda bottle to make a blood oath. This spoken promise is for the Losers to return to Derry when IT returns in 27 years.
Encounters with IT:
- Mike – In the book, Mike is attacked by IT in the form of a giant bird. (When he grows up, he learns his dad saw IT in the form of a pterodactyl.) In the movie, Mike is in an alleyway outside of Black Spot. He is horrified by the charred victims, only to almost be run over by a car with Henry and his friends seated inside.
- Bill – In the book, Bill encounters IT one too many times, some of which deal with his brother’s scrapbook of pictures. In the movie, he sees his dead brother Georgie in the water-flooded basement of their house. IT rises from the water and chases Bill, who makes it out of the basement in one piece.
- Bev (see the sink incident in “Similarities”)
- Eddie – In both the book and movie, Eddie is chased by It in the form of a rotting homeless man/ “crackhead” with leprosy, whom Eddie calls “the Leper.” In the book, the leper asks for sexual favors, but Eddie declines. He is then chased, leading him to hide under the porch of the house on 29 Neibolt Street. However, the Leper catches up to Eddie and chases him out the property. In the movie, Eddie is chased by the Leper from the front of the house to the backyard and escapes through a hole in a chainlink fence. The miniseries shows Pennywise coming out of the drain as Eddie is taking a shower after gym class.
- Stan – In the book, Stan was nearby a bird feeder when he comes across dead children. He repels them away by holding out his bird book and repeating the name of birds from his bird book. In the miniseries, the same thing happens except he encounters a mummy instead. In the movie, he encounters IT in the form of a deformed lady from a painting in his synagogue.
- Ben – In the book, Ben stays behind at school on a late-winter/ early-spring afternoon to help out a teacher. On his way home, he spots IT (in the form of a mummy) standing on ice. In the miniseries, he encounters his dead father in the Barrens. In the movie, Ben is in the library and is chased by a headless Kitchener Ironworks victim.
- Richie – (for the book, see Paul Bunyan statue in “Easter Eggs and References”); In the miniseries, Richie encounters the Teenage Werewolf in the basement of his school after watching a scary movie–which featured the monster–with his friends. Richie does not have an individual encounter with IT until he ventures into the Neibolt home with the others. He finds a Missing Child poster with his name, picture, and other information in it, and he freaks out at the sight of this. As Pennywise isolates him from the group, Richie is trapped in an upstairs room filled with clown dolls. He opens a coffin in the room to find a doll replica of him, its head filled with maggots. He closes the lid, only for Pennywise to execute an attack. He races back to the door in time for Bill to save him from terror.
- Patrick Hockstetter – In the book, this bully opens his refrigerator full of dead animals in the town junkyard after aggravating Henry, a scene as controversial as Love and Desire if adapted into the movie. (Patrick and Henry, along with Victor and Belch, were lighting their farts on fire in the junkyard; Beverly was watching from afar.) After he opens the refrigerator, IT–in the form of leeches–lunges at him and suck out his blood, then drags him into the Barrens. In the movie, he chases after Ben only to be stranded inside of the sewers, chased by sewer zombies of the children he bullied, and cornered by Pennywise.
- In the book and miniseries, the children find IT in a scrapbook. In the movie, they use a slideshow projector in Bill’s garage, and IT pops out of the screen.
- 29 Neibolt Street – In the book, the Losers enter the abandoned Neibolt home en masse. They are chased by IT in the form of the Teenage Werewolf. In the movie, Bill, Richie, and Eddie enter the home while the others are outside keeping watch. The clown separates them as an attack strategy and picks them off one by one, only for the rest of the Losers to attack IT, forcing the thing to retreat into the sewers.
Easter Eggs and References:
- The Standpipe – At the beginning of the film, Ben walks out on the last day of school and runs into Beverly. He is seen carrying what is later revealed to be a model of the Standpipe, a watertower in the fictional town Derry known for Stan’s encounter with IT in the novel. Later in the film, Ben writes his haiku to Beverly on a postcard with a picture of the Standpipe. This foreshadows the future career path he will have as an archtitect.
- Richie’s Freese’s Toy Store t-shirt – In the film, Richie Tozier wears a Freese’s t-shirt, which references a scene in the book where he is chased into the store by the bullies (Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, and Belch Huggins). He then catches his breath as he sits on a bench nearby a Paul Bunyan statue. The statue comes alive and attacks Richie. Speaking of which…
- Paul Bunyan statue – During a parade in the town (perhaps July 4th), the Losers sit down in front of the statue as they have a conversation about the clown.
- Trashmouth – Trashmouth is a nickname given to Richie Tozier.
- “Beep, beep, Richie.” – Throughout the movie, the Losers tell the talkative Richie Tozier to “shut up.” During his one-on-one encounter with IT in the Neibolt House, the entity says, “Beep, beep, Richie.” This is a reference to a common phrase tossed around throughout the novel when the character gets a little ahead of himself.
- Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema movie releases in 1989 – The Derry movie theater that is seen throughout the course of the film is shown to be screening summer movies including Tim Burton’s Batman, Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon 2, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
- Bill’s Tracker Brothers t-shirt – In the film, Bill is seen sporting a Tracker Brothers t-shirt. This is a reference to a baseball lot run by two brothers in the book whose last names were Tracker. In the novel, an adult Eddie revisits this baseball field, only to be terrorized by undead versions of people from his childhood: Greta Bowie (a girl he had a crush when he was younger), Belch Huggins, and others.
- Silver- Bill’s bicycle Silver is seen in the movie, although it is not clear if he does yell his ever-so-popular “Hi-yo Silver, away!” phrase.
- “He thrusts his fists against the post and still insists he sees the ghosts.” – Bill says this phrase at one point in the film. In the book, Bill uses this as a way to overcome his stuttering; he also uses it as a defense mechanism to face his fear of IT.
- Cameo from Tim Curry’s Pennywise- When Richie is separated from the group in the Neibolt house, he is confronted with his biggest fear: clowns. The room is then revealed to contain clown dolls. The one closest to the coffin is that of Tim Curry’s iconic Pennywise from the 1990 IT miniseries.
- “I Love Derry” Balloon – In the movie, Patrick Hockstetter is cornered in the sewer, only for a balloon to approach him. The balloon pops, revealing Pennywise ahead of him. This specific balloon is a reference to a major event at the beginning of the novel–the second chapter–where a young homosexual named Adrian Mellon had been pushed off the Kissing Bridge by teenage homophobes in the 1985 part of the story. Mellon goes on a walk in the night with his partner, Don Hagarty, after attending the local town fair. After the teenagers push him off the bridge, Mellon is attacked by Pennywise. While being interrogated, the teenagers claim they saw a clown at the bottom of the bridge. The policemen do not believe them, and the boys are sent to prison.
- Eddie Kaspbrak is seen–at one point in the movie–wearing a t-shirt involving a car with an angry-looking face. Fans have speculated that perhaps this may be an allusion to King’s novel Christine, which also made a cameo in the IT novel. (An undead Belch Huggins picks up an escaped adult Henry Bowers in a 1958 Plymouth Fury.)
- Edward “Eddie” Corcoran – The movie made a brief reference to the child who became the book’s first victim of Summer 1958. While the rest of the schoolchildren went home after the last day of school, Eddie fled to the Kissing Bridge to avoid a beating by his stepfather on the account of a bad report card. (His stepfather had also murdered Eddie’s younger brother Dorsey months before, and his mother tried to cover it up.) Night comes, and–long story short–IT (in the form of the Creature from the Black Lagoon) “tore his head from his shoulders.”
- Black Spot – This nightclub, occupied by African American soldiers before the Losers’ time, was burnt down by a group of local white supremacists named the Maine Legion of White Decency. The movie only referenced this, albeit the film was supposed to include a scene exploring the event itself. The director said this will instead be likely used in the sequel.
- Bradley Gang shootout – The movie makes references to yet another incident that occurred in one of the novel’s interludes. The Bradley Gang were a group of criminals that were shot down in the streets by a number of Derry store owners and citizens, one of whom was Eddie’s pharmacist, Mr. Keene. In the movie, a mural on a wall featuring the Bradley Gang can be seen during Mike’s encounter with IT, and returns again after the boys sit against the wall tending to a bleeding Ben. While Richie watches Ben, the other boys–Bill, Eddie, and Stan–go into the pharmacy to retrieve supplies for Ben’s wound (Henry Bowers carved an “H” on his stomach with a switchblade). Realizing they cannot afford the supplies nor use Eddie’s pharmacy account, they use Beverly as a distraction to Mr. Keene in order to run out of the store with the supplies.
- Kitchener Ironworks – In the film, Ben references this incident and is also chased throughout the library by a headless Ironworks victim. In the book, this ironworks exploded and claimed the lives of 102 people, 88 of whom were children partaking in an Easter Egg hunt; a young Mike Hanlon ventures through its ruins and encounters IT in the form of a giant bird, but during the burning of Black Spot, his father perceived IT as the Japanese kaiju/ pterodactyl Rodan.
- As the Losers are down in the sewers searching for Beverly, Stan is separated from the group and is attacked by IT. The rest of the boys find him, and he cries out that he was abandoned by the group. This sparks a poignant feeling and foreshadows his suicide as an adult.
- Lego Turtle – Despite the argument surrounding the type of Lego used in the film, the Turtle itself is a direct reference to the amicable force of nature in the book which rivals that of IT. In the book’s version of the Deadlights, Bill and Richie encounter the Turtle, who gives them advice on how to defeat the great evil. Speaking of which…
- Towards the end of the film, IT lures Beverly into its Deadlights. After the confrontation, Beverly tells the group of a vision she had (while caught in the Deadlights) of them 27 years in the future. The director has teased more of this–and Pennywise actor Bill Skarsgård says his character’s origins are to be explored–in the sequel, which will feature the Losers as adults.
- Other forms of IT during the final confrontation include its spider form and the mummy from the novel and miniseries. This could foreshadow something for the sequel so there could be hope that IT: Chapter Two could stay true to the source material.
- In the final scene of the film after sending Pennywise into hibernation, the members of the group gradually leave one by one. This is the order in which they die; first Stan, then Eddie, followed by the others. (Nice foreshadowing; reminds me of the Final Destination movies.) This also mirrors the ending to that of Stand By Me, another Stephen King story with a coming-of-age theme.
- Seth Green (Austin Powers trilogy, Robot Chicken, Family Guy) played the young Richie Tozier in the miniseries; Green also voices Howard the Duck in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame portrays this current version of young Richie Tozier.
- Bill Skarsgård, who plays Pennywise in the film, is the son of Stellan Skarsgård (Dr. Erik Selvig from the Thor and Avengers movies in the MCU).
- Wyatt Oleff, who plays Stan Uris in the film, also plays a young Peter Quill in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
Our #itmovie fundraiser did well! We laud Stephen King for writing one of the greatest stories of the late-20th century! Our founder/president was perhaps the only expert present, knowledgeable in both the 1986 novel and the 1990 miniseries, which aired on ABC. Thank you director #andymuschietti for the scares, the laughs, the tears, and the thrills! #ITisLIT
This movie was definitely worth the hype. In fact, the student organization I run at my university had a movie fundraiser for the film at our local mall on Thursday night, and suffice it to say that everyone (in the theater auditorium I was seated in) was screaming with fear. I, being perhaps the only one having both read the book and watched the miniseries, was prepared for what was to come. I smiled throughout the movie like the fanboy I was.
Keep in mind that this movie pertains to the Losers as children, and the director has already made plans for a sequel, which–if you follow the lore–deals with them as adults 27 years later. The first chapter of IT floats into theaters this weekend. For more Stephen King and IT-related news and reviews, follow Geek Motivation on Twitter (@GEEKMOTIVATION) and Instagram (@geekmotivation).
Written by: John Tangalin