From the Novel to the Terrifying 2-Part Film, A Deep Review of “IT” …
For many individuals in society, and throughout various cultures, clowns have always been creepy with their brightly painted faces making it difficult to distinguish whether they are friends or foe. Then Stephen King published his novel IT, released in 1986, and it brought people’s fears of clowns to all new heights. This story created by King is told in about 1,200 pages and was soon adapted into a TV miniseries in 1990. This miniseries clocked out to over three hours long, and is still unable to fit all the detail King describes in his novel. Later the story was adapted into a major blockbuster 2-part film released in 2017, and again in 2019. Surprisingly, the 2-part film was able to stay true to the original content.
The novel introduced the world to seven young children living in a city called Derry. The city these children live in has the highest missing person rates out of anywhere in the country, and posters of missing children hang from buildings and fences all along the city. The events that occur during that fatal summer happen during various timelines throughout the novel. However, the film and TV adaptations were unable to fit everything from the story into them, despite doing their best to include vital information from the book.
IT, Novel (1986)
The novel IT, written by famous horror author Stephen King, is a lengthy and terrifying story that will leave the most experienced horror enthusiast frightened of the dark and anything that might be lurking within it. The novel is filled with luscious detail and description, with the first 200 pages describing the little town of Derry, Maine and the strange occurrences that happen there. The self-proclaimed Losers’ Club, proudly representing the friendship and loyalty themes, goes throughout the story battling the vicious monster known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Quickly from the start of the story of IT, Pennywise shows his intentions regarding children with Billy’s brother Georgie, as he snatches him up from the sewer drain on a rainy, stormy day. After the Losers’ Club struggles through the long summer battling the child-hungry monster, most of them leave the city with only one member, Mike, staying in Derry after the events. The audience is then introduced to these children, now adults and their lives. Unfortunately, the monster has returned after 27 years, prompting Mike to call everyone back to Derry.
During this part of the novel, Stephen King uses flourished and descriptive language, as he describes one of the main themes throughout the story, fear. The smell of fear, or the “stench” as King describes it, reeks of rotting, mildew infected leaves. This type of language is used throughout the story when describing the fears of the characters once they return back to Derry. The remaining pages of the story consist of the memories and battles these adults face when trying to defeat the monster older than Earth itself.
The main themes of the story include fear and power, friendship and loyalty, and domestic abuse. These themes are usually presented to the readers through specific groups or characters. Friendship and loyalty is highlighted through the connection of the Losers’ Club and the strengthening of their bonds through traumatic experiences. Fear and power is highlighted mainly through the character of IT, and domestic abuse through the character of Beverly. Arguably the most recognizable and important symbol throughout the story is the paper boat Billy makes for Georgie, right before he gets murdered by Pennywise. The paper boat represents innocence, the innocence that is fed upon almost as quickly as it was made available. The loss of innocence and fear is what It feeds off of, making the paper boat a striking symbol of that.
Overall, the novel IT is an intensely scary story that will leave anyone shaking in their bed sheets at night. This is why there have been a few different adaptations of the story, from the TV miniseries released only four years after the book release, and then the film adaptation released in 2017.
IT, TV Mini-series (1990)
Starring Tim Curry as ‘Pennywise,’ the monster, the 1990 TV adaptation of Stephen King’s IT remains a popular aspect of pop culture even today. The TV adaptation, despite being just over three hours long, is unable to properly inform the audience of the entire story discussed through the events in the novel. However, the miniseries effectively provides frightening images and themes to the audience on screen, from the blood pouring out of the sink, to the truly frightening images of Pennywise lurking in the shadows.
While today’s advances in technology have increased the visual effects department of cinema, Stephen King’s IT miniseries highlights the overall tone of the novel through the visual representation depicted to the audience. From Pennywise’s long, claw-like hands, to the gory child murderers, the miniseries adequately provides terrifying images to almost any audience. Even so, the visual representations are not the most intense part of the miniseries. The classic tense and uptight music associated with this story was coined during the miniseries, and often is played when pivotal moments of the story are occurring. The music throughout the TV series had made such an impact on the reactions and emotions of the audience, that it was repeated and improved in the 2-part film adaptation. Regrettably however, beyond these aspects, the quality of the miniseries varied heavily throughout the three hour period. The quality and lighting techniques throughout the series did not fit the themes of fear quite as well as the novel would have intended through its imagery.
The fact that major points of the story were cut out of the TV series left the story hollow and much different from the original. With the entire removal of IT’s backstory, and the cosmic mythology surrounding the monster, the TV series leaves the audience unaware of the power It has over society and has had for such a long time. For much of the miniseries, the action occurring on screen leads nowhere and has no real direction in terms of climatic responses from the audience. Despite the child actors doing an amazing job, the slow-paced feeling of the TV series draws away from their performances.
Unfortunately for horror fans growing up on the 1990 TV series, the story was not followed, leaving out key points of the novel. This ultimately leaves the series underwhelming and does not meet expectations in terms of visual fright tactics. The TV series, while being three hours long, manages to cut the entire backstory of the monster, and how the Losers’ Club uses this knowledge in the novel. It would be almost thirty years until the 2-part film adaptation of the novel would be released, but it is fair to say that for horror fans, it was worth the wait. The TV series is available for viewing on HBO Max and YouTube.
IT: Chapter 1 and IT: Chapter 2 (2017, 2019)
Where the 1990 miniseries has a difficult time switching from childhood to adulthood, an important aspect of the story IT, the 2-part film adaptation that was released 27 years after the original adaptation, smoothly transitions from innocence to maturity, leaving the audience much more invested in the events occurring on screen. Differently from the TV series, the 2-part film adaptation looks the part of a horror story. The lighting techniques used by the filmmakers emphasize the horror aspect of the story, while also highlighting the emotions of the characters from childhood to adulthood. While this film adaptation does leave the viewer visually satisfied, there are some differences from the novel, such as the driving factor of the film, the mission to find Georgie’s body… which they never do.
The opening scene in this adaptation is much more intense and thrilling than the previous opening scene of the miniseries, leaving the audience overwhelmed and on the edge of their seats, wanting and craving more- like a true horror story. However, the fear factor of the monster It, in this film was not as frightening as the original adaptation played by Tim Curry. At times during the film, the movements of the monster were much too exaggerated and laughable by the audience. This is one disappointing aspect of the film as the monster is supposed to be more frightening than anything imaginable. As mentioned previously, the iconic music from the TV series was re-used in this film, while improved and sharpened to create a much more intense emotion within the audience during key moments of the story.
Sadly, the second part of the film, released in 2019, leaves the audience constantly checking their watch, but not completely checking out of the film altogether. The one saving grace of IT: Chapter 2 is the on-screen chemistry between the actors and their performances that leave the audience feeling their pain and fear. The second part of the film drags the remaining part of the story on for almost three hours, while nothing particularly scary happens during this time.
While the 2-part film adaptation is more intense and visually captivating compared to the TV series, neither of these screen adaptations does the intensity of the novel justice. The mental image created in fear from reading the story is incomparable to anything a film could possibly recreate. However, both adaptations stay somewhat true to the original novel, leaving the audience satisfied. The latest adaptation of the story is available for viewing on HBO Max or YouTube.
Be sure to watch the trailer for “IT” 1990!