It: All The Differences Between Stephen King's Book & Film


SPOILER WARNING: the following article contains major spoilers for It, in theaters now.

A new adaptation of It is finally in theaters, and Pennywise the Dancing Clown is terrorizing audiences once again. We’ve already seen a live action adaptation of Stephen King’s novel thanks to 1990's television miniseries with Tim Curry bringing the novel's villain to life. This time, Bill Skårsgard is the man behind the entity haunting the Losers Club and the town of Derry, and for the most part, the film got many things right about the book. It captured the sense of childhood and adolescence that King fed through his iconic storytelling, but there are many details that the film doesn’t include for various reasons -- and we’re not just talking the most controversial plot point. We're going to run down as many as we can without spoiling the newly-confirmed sequel for you.

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Both the book and the film have proved to be equally terrifying in their own unique way. Whilst King wrote in many more monsters and ghoulish manifestations to haunt the children, the film keeps it relatively simple. There’s only one manifestation for each child, including It, as clowns are Richie’s worst fear.

Originally, the Losers Club fight It during 1957-1958, but the new adaptation brings the time forward to the 1980s. This is partly so audiences can relate more the setting, but it also allows for different stylistic choices throughout the film. Plus, with Finn Wolfhard being best known for starring in Stranger Things before It, it’s possible the film makers wanted to catch the attention of his built-in audience. However, despite the time shift, the nostalgia, the films they reference and even the themes the movie explores are very similar. (Quick side note – the Duffer Brothers originally wanted to adapt It, but were told they weren’t experienced enough, so decided to make Stranger Things instead.)

When Pennywise first shows himself to Georgie whilst peeking out of the sewer, he introduces himself as Mr. Bob Gray. But Skårsgard's clown leaves the alter ego out of the introduction and simply enchants Georgie by telling him that he’s “Pennywise, the dancing clown!” He then tells the young boy that his entire circus got swept down into the sewer, enticing the boy closer before biting his arm off -- a scene that was not in the novel. The film, unlike the book, never also gives the rest of Georgie’s family any closure, as his body is never recovered and is still labeled missing.

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In the 2017 film, Ben is the new kid who doesn’t have many friends and spends his time in the local library learning as much as he can about Derry and its’ history. He’s even tormented by It whilst digging into the horrific past of the town. (We’re still not over the creepy old woman who gets closer and closer behind him with each shot.) But in the book, Ben isn’t the one fascinated by the history of the town – it’s Mike who learns all about the different "accidents," and that happens when he’s an adult, much later on in the story. In the film, Mike also lost his parents in a fire years before the story starts, and lives with his grandfather on a farm. Part of his character arc is learning to deal with death, and even embrace it, as he kills lambs with a bolt gun. But we’ll come back to the gun.

Stephen King is well aware of horror tropes and popular monsters that have terrified audiences across the years, and since the book is set in the 1950s, the references are from that era. It feeds on the individual fear of each person, and changes form for each member of the Losers Club. The book uses this as a way of introducing different monsters into the story, not just the infamous dancing clown. There’s a Mummy, a Werewolf and even the Gill-Man from Creature of the Black Lagoon. The Gill-Man kills, Eddie Corcoran, a character completely left out of the film. Later on in the book, It takes the form of Frankenstein’s Monster and tears two of the bullies in Derry to shreds -- another scene that was left out of the film.


Now we come to the hallucination smoke hole -- and that’s not a sentence you write every day. After defeating a group of bullies and fending off It for a while, Richie and Mike decide to create their own American/Indian Smoke Hole so that they can hallucinate and learn all about It, where it came from and how to defeat It. Essentially the pair get high and try to learn about an interdimensional alien monster that is terrorizing them. Understandably, that portion of the book was left out of the new film.

When the kids face each of their fears, they put their heads together to find a way of beating the monster tormenting them. In the novel, they believe that silver will hurt it because of the properties the metal has displayed in fiction (killing Werewolves, for example), so they make two silver slugs to be launched at It by a slingshot. And because they believe in the silver, it does indeed hurt the monster, thus presenting them with their first victory over It. In the new film, the chunks of silver are replaced by the bolt gun that Mike takes from his Grandfather’s farm, and as expected, the bolt gun proves just as effective as the novel's silver slugs.

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