Clowns have always been creepy, but Stephen King cut from the devilishly dark mold when he created Pennywise, the dancing clown. From his white face, receding hairline, and baggy, silk, ruffled suit, to his demonic smile, high-pitched voice and blood-red balloons, this ancient, cosmic force of evil has had no problems coaxing children into his gruesome clutches, until now. While the book dedicates its storytelling efforts to showing just how Pennywise stalks, manipulates and eats the children of Derry, Maine, the film manages to flesh out some bloodthirsty, exciting material for a contemporary horror generation. So, grip your Pennywise horror collectibles tight as we tell you about how the book and first film adaptation differ!
The time periods
For those who haven’t read the 1986 thriller, the most immediate difference that fans will notice is that the recent film adaptation has shifted the original time period in the novel. Stephen King’s book sets the action to take place between 1984 and 1985, when the Loser’s Club are adults, writing in several flashbacks to 1957 and 1958 when the Loser’s Club encounters Pennywise for the first time. That being said, in the 2017 film, IT: Chapter 1, the characters are clearly embellishing an ‘80s theme, placing the Loser’s Club, 27 years later, in adulthood in the present day.
Many of the original monsters from the novel didn’t make the cut onto the big screen film. In fact, Pennywise was feeding off a whole new set of fears. With the novel set smack in the middle of the birth of slasher movies, Stephen King wrote in many iconic, 80s movie monsters, such as The Mummy, The Wolfman, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. However, in order to appeal to the trending change of horror, the film changed Mike’s giant bird scene, Stan’s drowned children scene and Richie’s werewolf scene. Although, Beverly’s time-honored bloody sink scene was even made more sinister and grotesque to ignite some new fear in fans.
How is Mike Hanlon’s role different?
The novel was loosely narrated by Mike Hanlon, who was responsible for reuniting the Loser’s Club for the final showdown with Pennywise. In the 27 years that past, Mike worked as Derry’s trusted librarian, gathering as much information about the town’s dark history, including how the dancing clown always appeared before a major recorded tragedy, which provided a great coverup for the missing children. Moreover, in the film, the position of the historian shifted to Ben, walking the characters through his homemade, archival scrapbook. Although, this wasn’t the only change to Mike’s character. In the novel, he shares a close connection to his dad, whereas in the film, Mike was orphaned and was left to live with his grandfather on his farm following their tragic death. Lastly, Mike relies on his trusty slingshot to take down Pennywise in the book, which was upgraded to a bolt gun in It: Chapter 1.
The controversial sex scene
One of the most questionable parts of the novel occurred after the apparent defeat of Pennywise. The kids start to argue, as they attempt to navigate their way out of the deranged sewer. Finding themselves lost, Beverly quickly undresses and offers herself to the group as a way to bond together. Thankfully, this scene didn’t make the cut, and instead, a blood oath was used as a less wildly-inappropriate replacement.
Beverly’s character sees a change
The film sets the stage with Bev playing this damsel-in-distress role, which varies from her far braver portrayal in the novel. It also weighs quite heavily on an uncomfortable relationship with her father, presenting incestuous overtones rather than the violent, abusive relationship from the book. The first film adaptation also glazes over the societal problem with slut-shaming, adding an interesting dimension to Bev’s character, and of course, her love triangle between Ben and Bill.
Still, despite the changes, the screenwriters pretty much nailed the book, celebrate the original IT film and smash the box office with a pretty stellar horror movie. Of course, since then you’ve stocked up on your favorite Pennywise horror collections and with the newest adaptation to hit theaters, we’re sure that there will be even more.
Do you personally prefer the book or the film portrayal of Pennywise the dancing clown? Drop a comment below to share your thoughts.