FILM & TELEVISIONParents Want ‘IT: Chapter 2’ Marketing To Be Removed Because It’s Scaring Their Kids
The Losers Club is all grown up and back in Derry for a final confrontation with Pennywise in IT Chapter Two, Director Andy Muschietti’s follow up to his 2017 box office hit, IT. Chapter Two isn’t quite as good as its phenomenal predecessor, but it’s still good, scary fun. And together, the two films comprise a deeply satisfying full adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling novel.
(Some spoilers for the 1986 novel, the first film, and IT: Chapter Two, but no major reveals from IT: Chapter Two)
Confession: IT was the book that turned me on to Stephen King, convincing me that the horror novelist’s work wasn’t just about monsters, gore, and jump scares. It scared the crap out of my 20-something self; I slept with a light on for two nights after finishing it. I can’t recall any other book that had that effect on me. Somehow it tapped into my most deep-seated fears from childhood—fears I wasn’t aware I still possessed on some long-submerged level. The best of King plumbs the psychological depths of the best and worst of human nature, and IT is definitely one of his best.
IT: Chapter 2 is finally in theaters, and audiences are excitedly ready to finally see the new movie. However, some people aren’t so excited about the latest Stephen King adaptation. In fact, they’re rather upset over the marketing campaign which seems to be scaring their children with the image of Pennywise. And now the parents of these children are trying to get the images banned.
The report comes from 9news in Australia, where they’ve stated that parents are “lobbying for all roadside billboards of the upcoming horror movie, IT, to be banned”. Their complaints have reached as far as the ad standards agency.
One of the examples of scared children happens to be a young girl named Piper. She stated that the “scary picture” of Pennywise is stuck in her head and gives her nightmares. She even has to check her room before going to bed at night in fear of the creepy clown entity.
Of course, the ad standards agency said there was very little they could do because they don’t have jurisdiction over where the ads are placed. At least, not as long as they don’t pertain to language, sex, or sexuality. Although the 9news article did happen to say that a billboard featuring Pennywise near a school was removed.
In any case, it seems that these parents might have helped the film’s publicity more than they did to fight it. IT: Chapter 2 is headed to be a success much like its predecessor was – so it looks like there’ll be plenty of clown-related nightmares for other kids and audience members to come.
The novel tells the story of a group of misfit preteen kids calling themselves “The Losers Club.” The kids discover their small town of Derry, Maine, is home to an ancient, trans-dimensional evil that awakens every 27 years to prey mostly on children by taking the form of an evil clown named Pennywise. Actually, the evil, It, takes on many forms, preying on the specific fears of its targets. At one point, unofficial group leader Bill concludes that It is a “glamour,” a mythological shapeshifting creature with the power to create illusions. One of the more terrifying aspects of the reality-bending illusions It inflicts upon the children is that adults don’t seem to be able to see the horrors at all.
The book opens with the brutal murder of Bill’s little brother Georgie one rainy afternoon at the hands of Pennywise and proceeds to jump back and forth between that harrowing past and the members of the Losers Club as successful adults. They have forgotten the events of that fateful summer, and when they reconvene in Derry 27 years later, their memories start to return bit by bit. It’s a clever narrative device, as the characters must confront the truth about themselves, their lost childhood innocence, and the traumas they’ve repressed for so long. Re-igniting their lifelong bond is the key to defeating It.
The tightly interwoven narrative makes it challenging to adapt King’s sprawling novel for the screen—and the highly conceptual finale, essentially a mental battle of wills, is even more difficult to capture in a visual medium. There was a TV miniseries in 1990—technically, a two-part, three-hour movie, which meant that much of the novel’s richest storylines were excised from the script. It was OK, as adaptations go, but the visual effects were cheesy, and the reworked finale was a bit silly. Still, Tim Curry lit up the small screen as Pennywise with his unforgettable cackle. So when Bill Skarsgård was tapped to portray Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the 2017 remake, he had some pretty big shoes to fill. He proved more than up to the task, creating a version of Pennywise even more likely to haunt your dreams.
Set in 1988-1989 (updated from the book’s childhood timeframe of 1957-1958), IT essentially adapted the childhood half of King’s original novel. Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) loses his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) to Pennywise and recruits the Loser’s Club to take on the killer clown the following summer when they realize what’s going on. Bill, Stan (Wyatt Oleff), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), and Mike (Chosen Jacobs) succeed in driving It into early hibernation, where It will hopefully starve. But Beverly has a vision warning that Pennywise will return on schedule in 27 years, and they must be ready to fight It anew.
IT is quite possibly the best adaptation of a King novel I’ve yet seen (Castle Rock is an anthology series inspired by the works of King, not a direct adaptation). The childhood storyline was the beating heart of the novel, and Muschietti coaxed wonderful performances out of his young cast. The film is visually stunning and impeccably paced, dispensing terror and dread at regular intervals but never neglecting the humor and warm glow of these preteens teetering on the brink of adolescence.
And Muschietti wisely omitted the most controversial scene from the book, when the Losers get lost in the sewers after defeating Pennywise the first time, and Beverly (the only girl) decides she must have sex with each of the six boys so they can re-unify. King has said it was intended to connect childhood and adulthood, and it’s true that the brutal murders of children are (or should be) far more shocking. But I’ve always thought having the only girl in the group basically pull a train was the novel’s greatest flaw. Had Muschietti included it, that’s all anyone would have talked about. IT was much stronger for the omission and went on to become the highest grossing horror film of all time.
IT: Chapter Two revisits our protagonists 27 years later, as they all return to Derry as adults, in response to a call from Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only member of the Losers Club who stayed in Derry. Bill (James McAvoy) is now a successful novelist, married to a famous actress. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is a successful fashion designer married to an abusive husband. Ben (Jay Ryan) is no longer the fat kid, transforming into a slim, well-muscled successful architect. Eddie (James Ransone) runs a limousine business in New York City. Stanley (Andy Bean) is a partner in an accounting firm. And Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier (Bill Hader) is a successful DJ and comedian. They recall very little of that summer in Derry, although the memories come flooding back over dinner at a local Chinese restaurant—a dinner that also features some taunting horrific illusions from Pennywise.
Muschietti had an even bigger challenge on his hands adapting the adult storyline from King’s novels because he used all the major reveals in his first film. So instead of wandering around Derry on their own to recover their memories, the Losers go in search of tokens from their past for use in a “ritual of CHUD” that Mike believes will allow them to defeat It. (In the book, that “ritual” is the aforementioned orgy.) It’s a clever move, giving us a few more details via flashbacks about the Losers’ personal demons, although those scenes don’t have quite the same punch as those featured in the first film. Another smart move: Muschietti dispenses with one of the book’s subplots involving Beverley’s abusive husband and Bill’s wife, Audra, following their spouses to Derry and getting pulled into Pennywise’s shenanigans. It would have been an unnecessary complication to an already complicated film.