Next year’s IT Chapter Two may be highly anticipated by fans, but there are some decidedly weird elements from Stephen King’s sprawling book that the sequel’s director, Andy Muschietti, may have to change, or leave out entirely.
In Stephen King’s nearly 1200-page novel IT, the residents of a fictional Maine town called Derry are involuntary hosts to a prehistoric, shapeshifting being known only as It (or Pennywise the Dancing Clown, when it dons the appearance of a circus clown). Every 27 years, the creature ascends from Derry’s sewers, wreaks havoc, eats some locals, returns to the sewers, and the cycle continues. However, after Pennywise eats the younger brother of twelve-year-old Bill Denbrough, Bill recruits his friends (dubbed “The Losers’ Club”) to discover the creature’s weaknesses and whereabouts, and kill it once and for all. Now, with the concluding chapter of the adaptation currently in development with IT Chapter Two – taking place 27 years later and featuring older versions of the Losers – Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (IT, The Nun) will no doubt practice restraint over what elements from King’s novel they choose to keep and what they choose to leave out altogether.
Related: 16 Secrets Behind The Making Of IT
On the one hand, modern audiences have proven that they’re hardly prudes for the objectively weird, immoral, and grotesque (see: massive interest in shows like Westworld and Game of Thrones), but some of the material in King’s original novel may test that sort of open-mindedness in a mainstream horror movie. Muschietti has confirmed that IT Chapter Two will explore some of the interdimensional psychedelia featured in the novel that explains Pennywise’s origins, the Losers’ unique connection to the creature, and the overarching evil that resides in Derry, but there are still some elements that may never make their way off the page. And even though some of the more questionable elements in IT take place when the Losers are younger, there’s technically still room to feature IT’s more unorthodox scenes in flashbacks.
- This Page: The Child Orgy and the Space Turtle
- Page 2: The Smoke-Hole and Pennywise’s Many Forms
Stephen King’s IT is one of many stories that revolve around a ragtag group of kids doing battle against evil (see: The Goonies, The Monster Squad, Stranger Things). It exists in a niche subgenre depicting textbook innocence against textbook evil. However, even though these other movies and TV shows pit children against mature elements well beyond their presumed capabilities, IT pushes the envelope in certain areas. Violence against children is one thing (the first movie does go so far as to physically portray George Denbrough’s graphic death scene), but there are some elements of King’s novel that might have a difficult time being translated into a live-action adaptation.
The upcoming sequel is bringing back the younger Losers, meaning there is still potential for moments that were nixed from the first movie to show up in flashbacks. That said, the scene in which these twelve-year-old characters all have sex with each other in order to save their lives likely won’t make the final cut – for obvious reasons.
In the novel, the Losers become lost in the Derry sewers after “defeating” Pennywise. Unfortunately, their recent interaction with the monster has weakened their bond, thus playing a major role in them getting lost. So, in order to strengthen their bond, all of the male Losers take turns having sex with the only female of the group, Beverly Marsh. The physical intimacy is meant to represent love, as well as the link between childhood and adulthood, but translating that to the big screen is touchy business, to say the least. (Honestly, the fact that it even exists on the page is touchy business.)
Maturin and the Ritual of Chüd
As determined as the Losers may be in IT, they’re still facing off against an interdimensional creature with powers beyond their comprehension. So, it’s only natural that they’d need some interdimensional help to even the odds; and, in King’s novel, they do. Counteracting Pennywise’s overt display of evil is Maturin, a fellow interdimensional creature (portrayed as a massive turtle) and one of twelve guardians of the Dark Tower (King’s multiverse is filled with connective threads, and this is just one of many). However, as useful as Maturin might be in aiding the Losers, don’t expect to see him show up in the sequel – at least not in the same way he appears in the novel.
In the first movie, there are nods to Maturin (when the Losers are swimming in the quarry, they point out that a turtle is swimming in the water; and later in the movie, Bill is holding a turtle made out of LEGOs), but they are subtle at best. And even though director Andy Muschietti confirmed that Maturin will appear in IT Chapter Two, it’s unclear how much of the turtle will actually show up in the final cut.
Director Andy Muschietti has vocalized his lack of enthusiasm towards IT’s fantastical elements, but that’s not to say he’s rewriting the source material. It’s just that some of the outlandish elements may be depicted in a more grounded sort of way. In an interview with SyFy, Muschietti confirmed that the turtle will be a bridge between the first and second movie, saying, “In the second movie, the turtle left a few clues to their childhood that they don’t remember. They have to retrieve those memories from the summer of 1989, and that’s how we jump back to 1989. The keys to defeating Pennywise are left in the past, and as adults, they don’t remember.”
So, in the same way IT consolidated much of the storyline for the sake of brevity, Maturin will likely undergo similar treatment.
In fact, speaking of Maturin, the turtle does its best to help the Losers in their fight against Pennywise, and easily his best form of advice comes in the form of the ancient Ritual of Chüd. It’s essentially a psychic battle in which the innocence of a child (specifically the Losers when they go toe-to-toe with Pennywise) can manifest into a source of power against evil. This ritual helps weaken the creature, reinforcing the idea that belief in something is just as strong – if not stronger – than any physical weapon. And even though the ritual (in some way or another) will show up in the sequel, chances are the adaptation will portray a significantly watered-down version so as to lean closer to horror than fantasy.
In Stephen King’s novel, the Losers discover vital information about Pennywise’s origins in a scene inspired by Native Americans. They learn about visions that Native Americans claimed to have had in smoke-holes, and assume that the practice might benefit them. However, while it does, in fact, help the Losers (to an extent, at least), it’s one of those scenes that might work better on paper than it does the silver screen. In fact, even Muschietti seems to agree, given some major changes he’ll be introducing in the sequel, which also happen to incorporate the character Mike Hanlon.
Even though he’s introduced as an outsider when he’s younger, Mike Hanlon is one of the most important characters in IT. Not only is he the sole Loser who stays in Derry, while the others relocate to parts of the country less congested with evil clowns, he’s the only Loser who hasn’t forgotten what happened during their first battle with Pennywise. In fact, he’s spent the past 27 years learning all there is to know about the creature. Unfortunately, though, the past 27 years have taken a toll on Mike, and Muschietti plans on highlighting this fact even more so than King does in the novel, which in turn will help make the entire smoke-hole sequence easier to digest.
In the sequel, Mike will be portrayed in a much darker tone, having formed a drug addiction over the years in order to handle the trauma he and the other Losers faced, according to an interview Muschietti did with EW. And, as it turns out, this addiction may turn out to have an oddly positive effect on the Losers and their chances of defeating Pennywise once and for all. Instead of stuffing themselves into a makeshift smoke-hole in the middle of the woods as children, IT Chapter Two will have Mike (and maybe even the other Losers later on in the movie) take mind-altering drugs to manifest the same knowledge that was given to Mike and Richie in the novel.
Pennywise’s Many Forms
In the original novel, Stephen King really drives home the fact that Pennywise is a shapeshifting creature. It turns into classic Universal monsters like the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a leper, and even blood-sucking leeches, depending on a victim’s particular fears. However, last year’s live-action adaptation limited the sort of transformations that Pennywise could manifest, opting instead for more conservatively horrific monsters (though the leper does make an appearance as well), and it’s fair to assume that some of his stranger manifestations might not make the final cut.
For example, at one point in the novel, an older Henry Bowers is being summoned back to Derry by Pennywise in a scene that feels stylistically closer to Teletubbies than something belonging to the horror genre. Pennywise’s face appears in the moon as he speaks directly to Henry, prompting him to escape Juniper Hill Asylum, return to Derry, and try to kill the Losers (this scene was actually featured in the made-for-TV miniseries in 1990 – to questionable effect). There is also a later scene in Juniper Hill in which Pennywise has the head of a Doberman Pinscher; and while it might make for an effective scare for the guard that Pennywise is attacking, the effect probably wouldn’t translate particularly well to the screen.
The first IT adaptation all but confirmed the fact that Pennywise’s forms will be significantly less over-the-top in IT Chapter Two, so Pennywise’s interaction with Bowers might turn out to be as grounded as Muschietti’s other interpretations. Then again, given the confidence that he and Warner Bros undoubtedly have in the series following the first movie’s record-breaking success, maybe IT Chapter Two will throw caution to the wind and take to Stephen King’s most unusual elements with open arms.