In case you hadn’t noticed, the new It movie is doing pretty well for itself, earning an incredible worldwide box office gross of over $200 million in its opening weekend (fun fact: the film’s current domestic take of $123 million would be enough to put it in 10th place when measured against every film released this summer, which shows not only how well the movie is doing, but how dismal this summer was at the box office as a whole). Fortunately, It is well-deserving of this impressive run, as it’s a great update of King’s classic horror novel (be sure to read my review here).
Although It is a much better adaptation than The Dark Tower could ever hope to be, it does share one similarity with that film, in that it’s chock full of Easter eggs and nods to other Stephen King works and other films as a whole. if you’ve only managed one viewing so far, here are some of the best ones you may have missed.
Warning: this post dives into spoilers for both the new It movie and Stephen King’s original novel, so if you don’t want to know anything about the plot for It Chapter II, you should probably stop here.
15. The Turtle
Those who are familiar with King’s book no doubt recognized the significance of this right away, but the numerous references to turtles probably flew over the heads of most viewers. Ben Hanscom’s spotting of a turtle during the Losers’ swim in the quarry or Bill picking up (and dropping) turtle made out of Lego pieces may not seem very important, but both of these moments are references to the deep lore found in King’s novel.
Specifically, the Turtle is an ancient mythical being who is actually an adversary of the creature It. In the book, the Turtle helps the Losers defeat It, but it all gets a little esoteric and metaphysical, so it’s understandable why director Andy Muschietti decided to downplay the Turtle’s role in the film (though it’s possible that the Turtle will still show up in Chapter II).
14. Eddie’s Christine Shirt
While Patrick Hockstetter’s Tom & Jerry T-shirt immediately jumped out at me, I didn’t notice that Eddie Kasprak’s shirt bears a graphic with a seemingly obvious Stephen King connection. During the scene in which the Losers all discuss having seen Pennywise, Eddie’s tee displays a murderous-looking car with big eyes and even bigger teeth. While the titular car in King’s book Christine doesn’t literally eat people with a set of teeth, it does murder a lot of people and Eddie’s shirt appears to be a homage to that story.
13. Ben’s Postcard
Ben’s postcard to Beverly becomes an important bit of symbolism in the movie that eventually plays a role in her ability to come back from the Deadlights (all it takes is a good poem, apparently). What’s interesting about the postcard itself is that while Ben’s poem on the back is super adorable and romantic, the Derry landmark on the front is anything but. The postcard features a picture of the Derry Standpipe, which appears to be just like any other small town water tower until you consider the fact that it’s also the location of multiple child deaths over the years. Interestingly, the Standpipe is also features in two of King’s other books, Dreamcatcher and 11/22/63, both of which contain direct references to Pennywise.
12. The Background Scare in the Library Scene
Shout out to Scott Wampler over on Birth.Movies.Death for spotting this subtle, but awesome scare hiding in plain sight. As Wampler notes, during the library scene where Ben is flipping through a book about the history of Derry (I’m pretty sure it’s literally called A History of Derry), we see him turn to the same page over and over as it slowly zooms in on a newspaper clipping showing a child’s decapitated head nestled in some tree branches.
That’s a pretty decent scare, but the real terror in the scene is happening behind Ben. If you watch the scene again and pay close attention to the old lady in the background, she leers at Ben the entire time and even looks read to pounce on him at one point. It’s a great scare that many probably didn’t even notice and further reinforces how rotten both Derry and its adult population are.
11. Tim Curry’s Pennywise Cameo
While I think Bill Skarsgård does a great job in delivering a Pennywise performance that doesn’t try to copy Tim Curry’s memorable work in the 1990 miniseries, it’s hard not to compare and contrast the two. It’s a shame that Curry doesn’t make a cameo appearance in the film, but his legacy is still honored during the memorable clown room scene.
While exploring the house on Neibolt Street, Richie finds himself in a room filled with dozens upon dozens of clown mannequins (I like to call this the “f–k that room” scene). Granted, if you’re anything like me, you probably weren’t trying to look too closely at the individual clowns, but there’s one to the left of the coffin that’s worth paying attention to, as it is clearly modeled after Curry’s version of Pennywise. It would almost be sweet if it wasn’t creepy as hell.
10. 27 Years …
This one might be incredibly obvious, but still worth pointing out. In the film, the Losers talk about how It operates on a feeding cycle, resurfacing every 27 years to prey on the children of Derry. Whether intentional or not, the film’s release date is interesting as it comes 27 years after the It miniseries originally aired in 1990. Does this mean we’ll see another It remake in 2044? I certainly hope so!
9. Stranger Things
If you watched It and were reminded of another recent bit horror-tinged pop cultural event set in the ’80s, that’s no accident. Not only do It and the Netflix series Stranger Things share an actor in Finn Wolfhard, who stars as Richie Tozier here, the Duffer brothers originally wanted to direct the It remake and went on to make Stranger Things after the studio rejected them for not being experienced enough.
Oh and speaking of Finn Wolfhard’s character specifically, you may or may not have noticed that both of his characters in It and Stranger Things get in a fist fight with a close friend right before the third act (Richie and Bill in It; Mike and Lucas in Stranger Things). We’ll have to see if the upcoming second season of Stranger Things returns the favor with any It-related Easter eggs.
8. Paul Bunyan Statue
During the Derry festival scene when Mike is talking to his friends about what happened to his parents, a towering Paul Bunyan statue can be seen in the background. The same statue can be found in real life Bangor, Maine but its inclusion here is a clever nod to a scene in the book, which sees the statue come to life and chase Richie down the street with his ax. Considering that a 31ft-tall Bunyan statue chasing a kid down the street probably would have come off as more comedic than horrifying, the filmmakers were wise not to include it, but it’s nice to see Big Paul referenced here all the same.
7. Nightmare On Elm Street Homage?
If one were to pick the most outright disgusting scene in It, a strong contender would be the one set in Bev’s bathroom in which she is nearly pulled into her sink’s drain by bloody … hair? and then gets blasted by gallons of blood. I’m not sure if this was an intentional homage or not, but this definitely felt reminiscent of the infamous scene from A Nightmare On Elm Street where Johnny Depp’s character is sucked into his bed and churned up, releasing a geyser of blood. The big different here is that unlike Bev’s dad, who can’t see the blood smeared all over his daughter’s bathroom, Johnny’s mom sees all of it. In addition to this, there’s also a sign later in the movie announcing that A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 is currently in theaters.
6. All Those ’80s Pop Culture Touchstones
Both King’s original book and the miniseries set the childhood scenes in 1958, but It moves things ahead thirty years to 1988 and as such, is full of bits of ’80s pop culture. Bill has posters for both Gremlins and Beetlejuice hanging on his wall; Ben and Beverley share an inside joke about Ben’s fandom for New Kids on the Block; and there are signs for movies that would have been playing at the theater back in the summer of 1988, including Lethal Weapon 2, Tim Burton’s Batman and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5. Oh and the arcade game of choice is Street Fighter. The soundtrack is also littered with tracks from that era, including ones from The Cult, The Cure, Anthrax and of course, NKOTB.
5. Projector Scene Homage To The Sun Dog
The Losers get quite a scare when Pennywise essentially hijacks Bill’s slideshow projector and proceeds to come out of the screen to attack the group. Interestingly, this scene can be read as a direct homage to another Stephen King work: his 1990 novella The Sun Dog. That book features a scene in which a big dog jumps out of a projector and if the homage wasn’t clear enough, Pennywise even starts making barking sounds at one point!
4. Molly Ringwald
As already mentioned, It is filled with numerous touchstones to 80s pop culture, but it gets pretty on the nose at one point when Richie derisively calls Beverley Molly Ringwald. Calling attention to the fact that the film’s leading lady looks a lot like one of the most popular female acting icons of the ’80s certainly isn’t the subtlest of callbacks, but it should be noted that Ringwald is actually connected to another Stephen King work. The actress had a starring role as Frannie Goldsmith in the 1994 miniseries for The Stand, which like It is one of King’s longest and most popular books.
Of course, given how many adaptations of King’s work there have been over the years, it’s really not surprising that Ringwald would have had a role in at least one of them, but this at least gives the illusion that the It screenwriters were going for something a bit more of a nuanced callback here than it would initially appear.
3. The Deadlights
When Pennywise grabs Beverly in his lair, he gives her a good look at both his mouthful of razor sharp teeth and some mysterious lights in his throat that put Bev into some kind of trance. If you’re a big Stephen King fan, you’re likely already well-versed with what the Deadlights are, but more casual viewers were probably left scratching their heads as to why a shape-shifting clown has a set of Christmas lights down his gullet.
Well, without going too in-depth, the Deadlights are another dimension in King’s fictional universe from which Pennywise originates. Basically, Pennywise’s true form doesn’t exist in the physical world but rather exists in the Deadlights. Coming face-to-face with the Deadlights is said to drive any living being insane, so it’s really quite incredible that Beverly is able to come back from it (Ben must be one heck of a kisser!).
2. Spider Legs
During the Losers’ Club’s final battle with Pennywise, the creepy clown briefly transforms into a variety of different monsters (including a mummy!) and at one point turns his arms into what appear to be spider legs. This is a nod to Pennywise’s final form as a giant spider (think Shelob from The Lord of the Rings), as seen in both King’s original book and the miniseries.
It’s unclear at this point whether It Chapter II will show Pennywise in his spider form or not but if it does, it probably won’t be too difficult to surpass the cheesy spider fight from the miniseries; a fight that the Losers won by hitting the Penny-spider with a slingshot and then clawing at him with their bare hands until he died … which, as everyone knows, is the only way to defeat any giant supernatural spider.
1. Stan Leaves The Circle First
While It (thankfully) omits the controversial child sex scene from King’s source material, it does show depict the Losers’ Club partaking in a ritual of unity, with Bill getting his friends to swear a blood oath to return to Derry if It isn’t dead. We then see the Losers leave the circle one by one, until only Bill and Bev remain. What’s interesting is the order in which the Losers depart, as Stan is the first to leave. This not only makes sense from a narrative perspective — Stan is clearly the most fearful and reluctant member of the group, so it makes sense that he would be the first to bail after such an important moment — but can be read as a subtle nod to his fate in King’s original story.
As adults, Mike contacts the rest of the Losers’ Club to tell them that Pennywise has returned to Derry and every one of them returns except for Stan, who commits suicide by slitting his wrists rather than be forced to face It again. It should also be noted that Eddie — who dies in the final fight against It — is the second to leave the circle.