Last fall, a strange phenomena began occurring in the United States and other parts of the world. People reported seeing others dressed as evil clowns, lurking in unusual places. Incidents ranged from harmless scares to assault and robbery. The sightings suspiciously coincided with the news that Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema were set to release a new adaptation of Stephen King’s best-selling novel, It, the following year. Neither company admitted the cases of clown sightings were some elaborate marketing ploys for their upcoming film. Yet, the coincidences still created an air of coulrophobia for some.
Stephen King’s novel, published in 1986, stretched out into 1,138 pages, bred the 1990 ABC miniseries. By many accounts, it was considered to be a pretty scary adaptation. Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise the dancing clown has since become iconic. Watching the series now, and knowing the details of the book, the TV version doesn’t elicit the same kind of fear. It doesn’t stray too far from the source material, but major plot points are definitely left out. With the release of the 2017 It teaser trailer, it seems New Line, Warner Bros and director Andrés Muschietti are on the right track for a more faithful adaptation.
One of the things which stands out about the upcoming movie is that it is splitting the story between the characters’ childhood and adulthood, completely. The TV movie was more like the novel in this respect, as the story was told intertwined between the characters’ grown selves and flashbacks of their childhood. The series did, however, lose a lot of plot details because of this. Often the chronology of the story was changed, completely ruining the pace of the novel. Encounters with It would happen frequently without building much tension. The tendency to gloss over important details and the inevitable whitewashing of the violence didn’t do the series any favors. Bill’s stutter isn’t even apparent during most of his childhood scenes.
There are certain nuances about the book that would be appreciated by readers in the new movie. It would be nice to see the personal encounters with the monster for each member of The Losers’ Club. Each has a terrifying experience apart from each other. Eddie sees the monster as a leper, Ben sees a mummy, Mike sees a giant bird, and Bill and Richie see a werewolf. Though, perhaps the most terrifying encounter is by Stan Uris, who is lured into the town’s standpipe, becoming trapped inside while It closes in on him. The eeriness of that scene couples It in the form of dead, bloated children washing down the stairs and unsettling circus music.
The house on Neibolt Street is something else that will undoubtedly make an appearance in the movie. Eddie’s encounter with The Leper prompts Richie and Bill to try to defeat the monster on their own. Even though the miniseries portrays the kids in somewhat of a logical light by the fact that they travel everywhere together, the lack of numbers makes for more terrifying scenes. The house, which is touched on numerous times in the book, becomes one of It’s stomping grounds, which the monster can manipulate in certain ways.
The lore behind Derry, the setting for the movie, is also something that could use more details. The MO of the monster is that It will feed on unsuspecting children for a year or so, before hibernating for 30 years. But right before it goes into hibernation, a large-scale sacrifice occurs. Whether it is an explosion at the ironworks, a fire at a blacks-only night club, or the town coming together for a shoot out against a mob of gangsters, there is always something to cap off It’s reign of terror. Seeing one or more of these in visual detail, instead of through hearsay, would add so much to the production. So many little details that don’t pertain to the kids in The Losers’ Club create a sense of malevolence not directly perpetrated by Pennywise or It’s many other forms. Maybe we will even get to see a young Patrick Hockstetter suffocate his infant brother in a moment of sociopathic obliviousness.
Finally, the rituals that The Losers’ Club participates in, to learn about and fight It, must be shown in some form. Being nerds and outcasts — apart from their peers — means that many of them spend time reading and learning, when they do not play together. One ritual they come about derives from a Native American ritual known as a smoke hole. The group subjects themselves to burning a pile of brush inside their clubhouse to bring about prophetic visions. While most of the members flee from smoke inhalation, some stay long enough to hallucinate the origins of their supernatural foe. Their visions include an asteroid carrying It, crashing into what would be Derry during prehistoric times. The other ritual, known as the Ritual of Chüd, is the means the children use to fight it. The traditional method is that when fighting a monster, both parties must bite one another’s tongues while telling jokes, and the first to crack is defeated. In the novel, it is a spiritual and psychic battle of wills. During the ritual, the monster is able to transfer its opponent outside of time and space, toward the edge of the known universe and the deadlights, which are so incomprehensible that those subject ed to them lose their minds.
The only other addition that would set apart the 1990 series from the upcoming movie would be the inclusion of the cosmic turtle, the creator of all universes. It would be a bizarre addition since it would be almost out of place for a horror story, but King’s imagination doesn’t limit him to common tropes, and fans of his novels would enjoy it. The trailer already looks more promising than the original miniseries. Hopefully, the story will be portrayed as close to the events in the novel as possible. If so, it will certainly be worth a few good scares.