The Biggest Changes ‘IT’ Makes From Stephen King’s Terrifying Novel
The terror begins, in the open credits of the film and the first chapter of the book, with a little paper boat. Georgie Denbrough races after the boat, through the swollen gutters of Witchem street, happily splashing after it as travels down towards the intersection of Jackson. The boat appears here, made from the yellows pages ripped from a notepad, rather than the sheets of a newspaper in King’s novel. Being set in a different era, the music in which Bill and Georgie’s mother plays on the piano is different too. She plays a contemporary piece in the film and the classic ‘Fur Elise’ in the book.
Georgie’s strange death plays out pretty much the same in both the book and film. In the book, IT introduces himself as Bob Grey and also Pennywise the Dancing Clown, whilst the film doesn’t concern itself with alternative names simply calling IT “Pennywise” throughout. The event that ultimately send things on different paths between the book and film is Georgie’s death. The book sees Pennywise rips off poor Georgie’s arm leaving him to bleed to death in the street, whilst the film shows Georgie being pulled down into the sewers, putting some doubt into his fate.
Adrian Mellon is one of the first people to be killed by Pennywise in (1984), and Whilst he would not appear until the next film, the 2017 movie does pay homage to him. Adrian is set upon in a homophobic attack by a couple of drunken idiots. Adrian is wearing a hat embroidered with ” I ♥ Derry” which he won at the Bassey Park fairgrounds. The drunks beat up Adrian and throw him over the side of a bridge. Pennywise appears and starts to eat Adrian, as dozens of balloons float up from under the bridge, each with ” I ♥ Derry” printed on the side. One of these balloons can be seen when Patrick Hockstetter enters the sewers in the film.
In the book, much more is made of Bens Intelligence. He a smart kid who loves reading, designing and building. He builds a dam, an underground fort and even knows how to smelt silver. From Ben’s introduction, we realise that he is having issues from the school bully Henry Bowers, but the book explores this in more detail. The film simply has Ben bullied because he is fat, whilst the book explains why Henry so angry. Henry has been kept down in the fifth-grade, whilst his friends Belch Huggins and Victor Criss moved onto the sixth. During the years final exam, Henry had asked Ben to allow him to copy, but when Ben refused, Henry declared “you’re dead, fatboy”, leading to the confrontation at the edge of the Barrens. The fight between Ben and Henry is slightly different too. Both book and film Ben manage to plant a high kick firmly into Henry’s chest, sending him tumbling into the Barrens. In the book, the fall is a lot steeper and henry comes crashing down into the river, where Ben gives him a good old kick to the balls, before hiding in the Barrens. In the film, Ben just runs off stumbling through the river. Book Ben meets Bill and Eddie here in the Barrens, whilst in the film he meets the entire group. minus Mike Hanlon.
The way in which Ben first meets Pennywise is also different in the film. Movie Ben is attacked in the library by the headless corpse of Robert Dohay, a nine-year-old victim of the Kitchener Ironworks explosion. Roberts head was found in a neighbour’s tree days after the tragic event which killed 102 at an Easter egg hunt. In the book, it’s Mike that discovers the gristly history of Derry, but here in the film we see Ben reading about these terrible events. Ben’s creepy encounter with Dohay shows how the film makers have embraced the books history, whilst glossing over the details. In the book, Ben encounters a Mummy at the Canal. The mummy has a bunch of orange pom-poms down its front and is holding onto a bunch of balloons. If that’s not creepy enough, the balloons float towards the wind.
“Want a balloon, Ben?”
“Stuttering Bill “is pretty much the same in the book and Movie, the defector leader of a group of self-proclaimed Losers, facing off against a shapeshifting clown. However, his motivations have change significantly between book and film. In the new film, it’s Bill’s hope of finding his brother Georgie alive (or dead) that spurs the group on, whilst in the book it’s Bill’s need for vengeance that sets the Losers on a head on collision with Pennywise.
Bill’s encounter with Pennywise at his home also has vastly changed. In the film, Bill witness Georgie running through the house, revealed to be a sick puppet controlled by IT, and he barely escapes the encounter alive. In the book, George’s scarp book comes to life, with the pages turning by themselves and oozing blood. It’s this scrapbook that comes to life in the book rather than Ben’s slides in the film.
The biggest change to the character is his speech impediment. Bill’s stutter is not as prominent in the film as in the book, and his little mantra “He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts!” is barely uttered by the young lad. Pennywise also recites this verse, near the film conclusion. Spitting out the words as IT realises that Loser have defeated him.
Eddies appearance in the film is vastly different to that in the novel. We see Eddie popping pills and occasionally taking his asthma medicine, but in the book, Eddie is massive hypochondriac and it’s through this that his mother controls him. His asthma is much worse, and almost dies after a sever attack brought on from a punch by Henry Bowers. It’s Eddies inhaler that saves The group from a giant eye in the sewers, proving to the group that belief is strong enough to harm, maybe even kill, IT. In the film, the principle is the same, but it’s Mikes bolt gun that forces Pennywise back.
The house at 29 Neibolt Street plays a very heavy part in the film, and it’s here where Eddie first sees IT. In the film, Eddie is just walking past, but in the books Eddie crawls under the porch to confront his fear, after an old hobo had previously crept out and chased him down the road. It’s under the porch that Pennywise appears to him and tries to drag him down into the cellar.
When Eddie breaks his arm in the book, it’s because of Henry Bowers, rather than the films adventure inside Neibolt Street.
Richie Tozier appears as the same loud-mouthed, loosed tongue youth who just doesn’t know when to shut his pie hole. In the books, his friends often utter the phrase “Beep Beep, Richie” in order to silence him, but in the film, only Pennywise utters this sentence. The film adaptions paints Richie as a young brazen boy who’s reluctant to get involved with the groups monster hunting, even fighting with the group over this issue. Whilst in the book it’s Stan who’s reluctant to get involved.
Richie plays a much larger role in the book and does lots of character voices. He finds himself confronting IT in the cellar of Neibolt Street with Bill, where the creature takes the form of a werewolf. They later return with the entire group in their first “win” against the evil clown. He’s also one of the losers, along with Mike Hanlon, who were able to survive Ben Hanscom’s Indian styled smoke hole, and both witness the coming of It to the earth thousands of years ago.
Richie’s encounter with IT is also different in the film, which shows Richie stuck in a room full of clowns, which he explained was his worst fear. The book encounter is much more dramatic, with a large Paul Bunyan statue coming to life and chases him down the street.
“Unless you give me back my hen and my harp and my bags of gold, I’m going to eat you right the fuck up!”
Mike Hanlon is a young farm boy in both the book and film, but in the novel, it’s Mike that is fascinating with Derry’s history, rather than Ben. Out of all the Losers, Mikes story is the one that has the greatest changes. Mike Parents are both well and alive in the books, and running the farm as a family. In the film, both of Mikes parents died in a house fire. Just like in the book, film Mike is terrified of Henry Bowers, and with good reason. Henry Bowers despise young Mike, and honestly wants to kill him. Both version see Mike meeting up with the Losers after Bowers chases him, though the novel sees the rock fight take place in a gravel-pit, which the film swaps for the Barrens.
In the novel, Mike encounters IT in the ruins of the old Kitchener Ironworks. It appears as giant bird, a memory of which Mike has from a child, and also a nod to what his grandfather saw at the ‘Black Spot’ fire. In the film, we are led to believe that Mikes vision is of his parent’s death, but it’s clearly the ‘Black Spot’ fire which we witness.
Stan is an uptight, methodical and mature child in both the book and film. Stan “the man” Uris appears in the books as one the only Jewish kid in school, which resulted in severe torment from Henry Bowers and his goons. In the film, he is part of large Jewish community and his farther is a Rabbi, whilst in the novel, Stan’s family is Jewish but they do not follow the practice very strictly.
In the novel Stan encounters IT at the Standpipe whilst bird watching, appearing as “the dead ones”, the putrefied corpse of two children that had drowned there. In the film, IT takes the form of a renaissance styled painting, which appears a couple of times in the film and almost kills Stan at the end of the film.
Beverly Marsh is the only lady member of the Losers, and is an outcast due to her boyish behaviour and attitude. In the film, we see her being ostracised due to “dirty” rumours, whilst in the book, it’s her father’s job as the school janitor and her family’s financial situation which is the catalyst for bullies. Beverly’s boyish mannerism are only highlighted when she cuts her hair short in the film.
Both book and film Beverley encounter IT in her own bathroom, but only film Beverly is dragged towards the sink with possessed hair. Instead, the book sees a large balloon inflate from the plug-hole and pops in an explosion of blood.
The film and book do deviate quite a bit for Beverley, as she is reduced to “damsel in distress” for the film but plays a bigger role in the novel. In the book, Beverley best the other Losers with a sling-shot, and was the one that fired silver pellets at the werewolf in 29 Neibolt.
In a book chapter, no movie would dare go near, the Loser become lost in the sewers and Beverley encourages the boys into having sex with her, in order to “Bring them closer”. As crazy as it sounds, this act works and the Losers escape the dark tunnels of Derry’s sewers. It also works as a metaphor from them becoming adults, before they even know what that means. The film version plays out differently, with Beverley sharing a kiss with Bill at the end of the movie. It’s more subtle, but carries the same message.
Both mediums have Ben sending Beverley a secret love poem, but in the film the revelation of whom sent it comes 27 years earlier after Ben plants a kiss on her, to save her from the deadlights.
Patrick Hostetter appears briefly in the film as one of Henry Bowers goons, however his role in the source material is much bigger. He’s described as being an outright psychopath that tortures animals, keeps dead flies in his pencil case and makes weird sexual advances on Henry.
Stan’s Pennywise encounter is given to Patrick in the film adaptation, only taking place inside the sewers instead of the Standpipe. In the book, Patrick is killed by a swarm of flying leeches, which he finds inside an old fridge in the dump.
Both in the film and book, Henry Bowers’ father is portrayed as an obsessive figure in his life and the person most responsible for Henry’s crazed persona. In the book, his farther is an psychotic ex-marine who beats and terrorises his son. About the only thing they agree on is their hatred for the Hanlon family that have a farm nearby. The movie gives Henry’s farther an upgrade, whilst he is still an abusive and angry man, he’s holding down a job as a police officer.
In the book, Henry is as much as an antagonist as IT, and even though we see him carve the letter H into Ben’s stomach in the film, the book also sees him “whitewash” Stan’s face in snow, break Eddie’s arm and poison Mike’s dog.
In the film, Henry confronts Mike in the basement of 29 Neibolt, but in the book, Henry and his goons chase the Looser down into the sewers, but never gets a chance to confront the group. Henry’s gang play a much larger role in the book, where the film completely omits them from the films third half. Both Victor and Belch die when they follow Henry down into the sewers. IT attacks the trio, taking on the form of Frankenstein. Henry turns heels and runs, leaving his friends to die.
Both the film and the book both use the names ‘IT’ and ‘Pennywise’ for the shapeshifting antagonists, though in the book, IT claims that it’s true name is Robert Grey. The creature is a shapeshifting being that can conjure up illusions and even control people’s minds, and in the book IT also has the power of telepathy.
For the most part, the film keeps its portrayal of Pennywise pretty close to the source material, although it does appear as a clown more than it does in the book. In the book, it mostly just appears as that person’s greatest fear, and on several occasions, switching between two different creatures. It appears as; a wolf-man, flying leeches, a giant eye, a giant bird, a statue, a mummy, a leper, dead kids, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Georgie Denbrough (and many other forms in 1985).
Whilst the film is happy enough to keep IT’s history a secret for now, the book delves deeply into it’s history, including how it got on earth. Mike and Richie both share a vison of the creature arriving on earth thousands of years ago as a huge meteorite. The book also hints that IT is the entire town and that he created the settlement especial to feed. This explains IT’s hold on the residence of Derry, and how it goes unnoticed by the public.
The final confrontation is also drastically different, with the film going for a more psychical approach to the fight. In the novel, Bill engaged in the “Ritual of Chud”, a trail of the minds where Bill fights the demonic entity one on one. It’s during this that Bill almost see IT’s real form in the Deadlights.
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“Howdy Horror Fans. No CLOWNING around now, this is SERIOUS stuff. IT is a TERRIFYING rollercoaster of a novel and the new film does a lot of justice to it. Despite the changes, the book’s HEART and SOUL are still firmly intact! Float off now little kiddies… come back next time….bring your friends!