Top 10 Things Missing From Andy Muschietti’s “It” That Made The Book Better

Dan Grant takes an in-depth look at his favourite book, Stephen King’s IT, to discuss how the box office smash hit film version differs from the source and why Andy Muschietti’s movie, as good as it is, can never truly do the epic novel justice.

Illustration depicting Pennywise from Stephen King's novel IT. Photo Credit: Orbik

Illustration depicting Pennywise from Stephen King’s novel IT. Photo Credit: Orbik

Spoiler note: Before I start, this top ten will be very, very spoiler heavy, both in terms of the film, the novel and potential sequel. So if you don’t really want to know what’s in the novel and the films, I suggest you stop reading right now.

The film adaptation of Stephen King’s opus, IT, has set the box office on fire all over the world. I personally had no idea there would be this kind of interest in the film. The novel is my favourite book. It’s the best book ever written. One of the reasons why is the way it explores good vs evil in both mystical terms and in the real life situations the kids face every day. The characters are incredibly well written and the detail that is given to each one of them is unlike anything I’ve ever been privy to, both in print or on the silver screen.

Various cover art for Stephen King's novel IT.

Various cover art for Stephen King’s novel IT.

I enjoyed the film immensely although it took me two viewings to really appreciate what director Andy Muschietti and a trio of writers were going for. Because it’s a novel I’ve read six times in 25 years, it’s something I naturally feel very protective of and perhaps no adaptation could ever truly do it justice. I always thought that the novel should have been made into three separate films, each in excess of three hours (like New Line did with Lord of the Rings). But seeing as this is a horror film and not fantasy, there was no way New Line/Warner Bros was going to sink that kind of money and that kind of commitment into this project. However, now, after the film has gone on to make about 700 million dollars worldwide, maybe the sequel might be a bit different.

As much as I loved Andy Muschietti’s film and as much as I think he captured the ethos of the novel, there is still a lot he and the writers changed and a lot they left out to the detriment of the story. Here are the ten pieces of plot from the book I wish they would have had in the film.

10. The parents

In the movie, the only parent that is true to the book is Mrs. Kasperak. Bill’s dad has one scene, Ben’s mom is never mentioned and Bev’s mom is not even in the film at all (in the book she works at a local diner and often brings home cake and pie…yummm). I get why the parents were kept out of the film but Ben’s mom is a widow and she works very long hours to provide for her and Ben. She absolutely loves Ben and tries to keep him safe. She also talks to him about “sex crimes” and other uncomfortable topics. Richie’s parents are fun. Richie comes from wealth as his dad is a dentist. There’s one really light and funny scene where Richie’s dad knows he needs money to go to the theatre and he makes him cut the yard, front and back, and then gives him $2.00. This is also the prelude to how Beverly becomes part of the group. Mike’s parents are both alive in the book and Mike and his dad have a lot of scenes together. One in particular was so vividly described that it felt like you were there inside their home made truck with the missing windshield.

9. The true story of the Black Spot

In the film, Mike Hanlon tells the group of kids that his parents died in the Black Spot when it burned down because of some racist Klan members. But this is not what happens in the book. In fact, the story of the Black Spot burning down gave us Stephen King fans one of the truly awesome Easter Eggs. Mike’s dad managed to escape the Black Spot with the help of his friend Dick Hallorann. Hallorann, as you might remember from the movie The Shining, was the character who communicates with Danny. They both have the Shine. Hallorann’s shine is mentioned in the book IT as well. Mike’s father gets cancer when Mike is 15 and dies soon after. Hallorann obviously goes on to show up at the Overlook Hotel where Jack kills him with an axe (in the movie).

8. The Smoke-hole

The book goes into much greater detail as to how the kids come up with a way to kill Pennywise. The seven of them make an underground club house in the Barrens. This helps them hide from the bullies who make their life miserable. But then one of the boys researches what the natives did 100 years ago and this is how they devise with the smoke-hole ritual. They basically sit in the underground clubhouse and burn branches and leaves so that the small area fills with smoke. One by one, each of the Losers leave the smoke-hole until only Richie and Mike are left. Together they have the same vision and they travel to AGO….time before man where they see a spacecraft land on Earth and it waits for man to arrive. This gives them a lot more insight into what they are dealing with. This is a much better catalyst into the last act of the book than what the movie offers.

7. Beverly was never and should have never been captured by Pennywise

This is one of the parts of the film that really angered me and many other IT fans I’ve spoken with. Beverly was a strong character in the movie but she was even stronger in the book. Having her get rescued by the boys just rings false in every sense. She has the best shot of the group and she is the one who yields the slingshot with the silver bullet. She’s the one who does most of the damage to IT. There is strength in numbers and that is just briefly touched upon in the movie. In the novel, the seven of them are much stronger together and not once was one of them, especially Beverly, ever get kidnapped by Pennywise.

6. The Irish Cop

Ben (Brandon Crane), considering his dam, in Tommy Lee Wallace's 1990 TV movie version of Stephen King's novel.

Ben (Brandon Crane), considering his dam, in Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 TV movie version of Stephen King’s novel.

When the boys are in the Barrens, they make a dam. This dam is designed by Ben (who later goes on to be one of the world’s great architects) and it ends up flooding parts of Derry. Officer Nell, an Irish beat cop, confronts them and tells them to take the dam down but before he does all of this, he tells them that they did one hell of a job making a good dam. He also asks Ben how he learned how to do it and Ben tells him that he just figured it out…giving us some insight into what lies ahead for him and his future. The Irish Cop voice is something Richie uses on Pennywise on Neibolt street, as well.

5. There’s a reason why Henry wanted to carve his name into Ben’s stomach

In the movie, Henry, Belch, Patrick and the blond kid catch Ben and in a violent rage, Henry tells the others to hold Ben still while he cuts his name into Ben’s belly. There’s no reason given as to why Henry wants to do this except that he is a violent psychopath. But in the book, during the final exams, Henry tells Ben to let him copy off of him. Ben refuses and because of this Henry fails his final exam and is thus forced to do summer school. This will cause Henry to not be able to help his dad on the farm for the summer and because of this, Henry is afraid that his dad might beat him close to death. So he takes all of his rage out on Ben. It makes the scene make that much more sense.

4. The book gives greater importance to the mystical realm that the seven kids create

The novel states numerous times that the seven of them are brought together by some kind of force that isn’t physical. It’s like they were being drawn together, assembled to fight the evil that is IT. There’s a crucial scene in the novel where Bill brings Bradley-what’s-his-name (his last name is Donovan but Richie doesn’t remember his name because he’s not part of the group) down to the Barrens. He’s a kid from his speech class and right away Richie remarks to himself that he just knows he won’t stay. He’s not part of the group. This was before the final member showed up (which I’ll get to in a minute). The seven of them meeting and forming a bond was not by accident. It was a bond that was formed by forces outside of their understanding. The movie doesn’t mention this at all.

3. The epic Rock Fight

The aftermath of the Rock Fight as depicted in Tommy Lee Wallace's 1990 version of Stephen King's IT.

The aftermath of the Rock Fight as depicted in Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 version of Stephen King’s IT.

This was another massively disappointing part in the film. The Rock Fight goes on for about 30 seconds. But in the novel, it’s much, much longer and it ends with a verbal exchange between the Losers and Henry. Why they kept this exchange out of the film is very perplexing. The genesis of the Rock Fight results from Henry and his goons chasing Mike though the Barrens. The rest of the Losers are down there and they defend Mike, taking him into their group and creating the seventh seal or sign. This is when the group becomes whole. The rock fight does a lot of damage to both groups and when the rest of Henry’s group leaves because they are outnumbered, Henry, now alone, still acts tough and brave. This causes the Losers to fire off a barrage of rocks, all hitting him and causing him to flee in shame. The Rock Fight was almost an after-thought in the film but it was much more important and fleshed out in the book.

2. This one is a bit of speculation

In the movie, it looks like Henry dies when Mike pushes him down the well in the Neibolt house. If Henry is dead, then it changes the adult part of the story where Henry, with help from Pennywise, escapes from Juniper Hill, a mental institution, and comes back to Derry to try and finish the adults off. What was so great about Henry breaking out of Juniper Hill is that his get away car is a 1958 red and white Plymouth Fury. Christine is his getaway car. Christine is the 1983 Stephen King novel and this is another Easter Egg the writer dropped into the story for all his faithful readers. It’s a shame that Christine and Dick Hallorann more than likely will not be making an appearance in the film(s).

1. The movie just grazes upon the notion that the kids can hurt Pennywise because they are innocent

They haven’t allowed adulthood to corrupt them yet. But the book goes into much greater detail as to how their strength is their belief. The movie is much more like A Nightmare on Elm Street where it concludes that because the Losers weren’t afraid of IT, they can defeat and overcome the evil force. But the book goes much deeper than that. Richie uses his sneezing powder on the wolf at Neibolt Street. They use a slingshot with a silver bullet to inflict pain in IT during one of the final battles. Richie also uses his Irish cop voice to admonish the werewolf and this too inflicts temporary pain on the wolf. These things were not covered well in the film and they could have or should have been. It’s perhaps the most important part of the book.

There’s other areas they could have covered like Eddie Corcoran’s disappearance, Mike’s encounter with the bird, and the turtle. Now, for those of you who have read the book and you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the scene in the tunnels where the kids “become adults”. Well, there’s no way they could have filmed that scene. People would lose their minds over it, even though, in the context of the story in the book, it made sense. But it was never going to make the movie.

As mentioned, I liked the movie immensely and I understand why they couldn’t film all of the 1100 pages but it would have been nice to at least be a little more detailed.

Written & Compiled by Dan Grant

Your turn? Have you read the novel? How does the film compare? Let us know…

Discover More on Top 10 Films:
Top 10 Stephen King Adaptations | Top 10 Performances In Films Adapted From Stephen King Books | The 1990 TV Movie Reviewed | Top 10 Times Tim Curry Terrified Us In Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 Film Version Of “Stephen King’s It”

Read more from Dan Grant:
Top 10 Films About The Oppressed Taking Their Revenge
Top 10 Embarrassingly Cringeworthy Moments In Film
Top 10 Supporting Actors Who Always Bring Something Special To A Movie

About the Author

Dan Grant is an author and horror film fan from Canada. His first novel Terrified and Defenseless is now available for e-download from Amazon. Follow Dan on Twitter @baumer72.

Related Posts

  1. Dan Reply

    First of all: great celebration og King’s best novel. I love this book and the discussion of its best moments reminds me what makes it such a good story.

    I liked the new film but I’m not sure it was an upgrade on Tommy Lee Wallace’s two-part film from 1990. It didn’t have Tim Curry as Pennywise for a start. There was also more made in that film about what brought the kids together. Perhaps we’ll see more of that in the second film.

    Henry isn’t dead. I’m sure of it. They’ll bring him back. Probably as some kind of undead zombie. I prefer the psychiatric ward escape when Pennywise appears as Belch to get him out. That revenge/unfinished business subplot is one of the most powerful things about the story.

    By concentrating solely on the children, we miss a lot of what makes the story tick. Namely, the cyclical nature of the killing and how an older Mike brings them all back together. That sense of friendship is so important. As is the underlying historical darkness that suffocates the town that only Mike decided to stay in. The mystical force that brings them together is too diluted and you’re right to highlight the rock fight scene as a drawback.

    Really interesting read.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Glad you liked the piece, Dan and glad you are such a big fan of the book as well. We seem to agree on a lot of the pieces that should have been in the book, especially the mysticism and more of Mike.

      • Dan Reply

        I’m inspired to read the book again actually. I remember a lot of backstory/history and it all played its part in building the foreboding atmosphere of Derry prior to the kids’ story beginning. Of course, you can’t have all that in a film, and that’s what makes books different from films. I’ve said before The Shining (film) is great because Kubrick made his own unique version of it. But I told hold as much fan-boy love for that book so perhaps I’m a little more precious over It.

        You can still stick pretty closely to the book and make a great King film adaptation – see Misery for example. But It is epic in comparison and perhaps lends itself to a Stranger Things-type adaptation than a pair of films. But since I love the medium of film I’ll always lean towards movies over TV. Muschietti did a good job but I would have liked a little more subtly.

  2. Callum Reply

    I actually preferred the 1990 film. The new one is good but it isn’t scary. I haven’t read the book but as always it’s difficult to know what aspects to keep in and what to take out.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      I hope you get a chance to read the book, Callum. I wasn’t a huge fan of the 1990 piece but Curry was amazing.

  3. Mark Fraser Reply

    Haven’t read the book; haven’t tackled a King novel since 1990; haven’t seen either of the films … but I liked this list.

  4. Gregory Reply

    Good list. I thought Muschietti did a good job with the film and concentrating on the kids only was a plus. But it lacked something and there was more in the book that could have been included.

  5. Lucy Phillips Reply

    As a huge fan of the book I was wary about this film. But like so many of King’s work, it’s very tough realising what’s on the page on the screen. I was ultimately entertained but felt the film relied too much of effects and forgot about the relationships of the Losers. I think, like you say, the novel requires the epic treatment given to The Hobbit or LOTR. The problem with this film is – for those that know the book – is that the second film (or second half of the story) is essential… no matter how well they did to tie-up the story in its film version here there’s a feeling it’s only half done. And without the adults “looking back” ultimately getting back together, the story feels like it’s missing a great deal.

    • Dan Grant Reply

      Oh my GOSH! You absolutely nailed it. I understand why they made this film the way they did but without the children’s story being juxtaposed against the adult story it doesn’t hold as much weight.

  6. Laura Reply

    It’s such a tough book to make into a film. I’m glad they focused on the kids but like Stand By Me, it’s important to the story that this happens in the past as the adult kids remember their experiences. Without that, I don’t think the film could be any better than just okay.

  7. StephenKingPodcast Reply

    Good analysis of the film. “Beverly was never and should have never been captured by Pennywise” – was my biggest issue.

    • StephenKingPodcast Reply

      #IT is in my top ten King books but the adults not remembering at the end always keeps it out of the top spots for me.

      • Dan Grant Reply

        I understand what u mean. Although I do understand why he wrote it that way. But like I said it’s my favorite book of all time so I’m obviously very biased towards the quality of the book. But I’ve heard complaints like yours for many people and I completely understand why you feel that way.

Leave a Reply

*