If you grew up with the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It, brace yourself: the 2017 film version pulls the buckets of gore and insane, occasionally hilarious depravity straight from the pages of Stephen King’s blood-soaked, F-bomb-drenched 1986 novel.
The movie follows the seven kids in the Losers’ Club as they try to thwart an evil, clown-shaped nightmare in the small town of Derry, Maine. And sandwiched between the blood eruptions and jump scares are enough nods to both the original film and the wider King mythology to satisfy even the most hardcore fans. Let’s take a trip down into the sewers to look at all the Easter eggs you missed in It. Aside from the literal Easter eggs, that is, but you know where those lead…
Warning: Some spoilers ahead. Also, clowns. Lots of clowns.
During the Losers’ Club’s first visit to the run-down house at 29 Neibolt Street, Bill, Eddie, and Richie get separated and each has the chance to experience his own horrors. Richie (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard) finds himself locked in literally the worst place ever—a room full of clown dolls. But look closely, because they aren’t just any terrifying clown dolls. Just to the left of the shrouded coffin in the center stands a figure who may look familiar: Pennywise from the 1990 miniseries, as portrayed by Tim Curry. And while we’re trapped in the Neibolt house…
In both the book and the miniseries, Richie’s main fear is werewolves, a fear he gets after watching I Was A Teenage Werewolf at the local theater. So naturally, that’s the shape the evil fear-sucking being living in the town’s drainpipes usually takes when it appears for him. And while there aren’t any werewolves howling at the Derry moon in the 2017 It (or mummies, Gill-men, or Frankenstein’s monsters, for that matter), audiences do get a quick glimpse of that lupophobia during the encounter at 29 Neibolt Street. While the monster advances on Eddie, Bill, Richie, and Beverly, you can see werewolf claws start to rip through its clown gloves. It’s just a quick moment, but it shows the filmmakers were thinking of the fans even as they were deciding to pretty much forget about CG’ing a big scary werewolf.
Tracker Bros. shirt
Forget about the creepy clown effects, hair-raising sound design, and the incredible acting—the costume department were the real heroes in this movie. From Eddie’s Airwolf t-shirt to the bully Belch Huggins’ Anthrax tee, the kids’ outfits are all about the sweet, creamy nostalgia of childhood in the late ’80s. Which is why one shirt in particular stands out (well, two actually, but we’ll get to that in a second). When Eddie, Richie, and Bill go looking for Georgie in the drainage pipe in the Barrens early in the movie, Bill’s wearing a green shirt with a nondescript round logo in the center.
If you look closely, though, you can see that the logo says Tracker Bros. In the novel, Tracker Brothers is a shipping company in Derry, and their factory is where grown-up Eddie first meets Pennywise when he gets back to Derry. The Tracker Brothers factory also shows up in King’s 2011 novel Dreamcatcher, because even outside Castle Rock, he can’t help but connect everything.
Stuttering Bill isn’t the only It character who boasts a cottony Easter egg in this movie—one of Eddie’s shirts also hearkens back to King’s other works. Did you spot the design on his t-shirt in the scene when the kids realize they’d seen the same freaky thing? It’s an angry car with what appears to be a chrome V on the front. If a pissed-off car sounds familiar, you’ve probably read Christine, King’s 1983 novel about a killer car (or seen the film adaptation). Interestingly enough, Christine also makes an appearance in the It novel—or at least, a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury being driven by a corpse shows up. But what else could that be?
Was every Easter egg in this movie printed on a t-shirt? In addition to the two above, we also see Richie wearing a shirt proudly advertising Freese’s. You’ve probably never shopped there, and for good reason—Freese’s was a department store in Bangor, Maine that operated from 1892 to 1985. Despite the fact that it was once the largest retail destination in the state, it was also…a department store in Maine. Calling that obscure is like calling Raphael the angriest Ninja Turtle. So why would Richie wear a shirt from a defunct store that operated in a completely different town? It is mentioned briefly in the book, but even then, it’s mostly in the context of the Bangor store…which happens to be Stephen King’s longtime home. A nod to the creator of It? Yeah, we can definitely believe that.
The movie doesn’t pay any special attention to the kids’ bikes, and for the most part, the audience won’t either. These are kids in a movie set in the 1980s. In the suburbs, no less. What else would they ride? But fans of the story may have noticed one bike in particular that plays a big part in the original novel: Bill’s silver Schwinn, which happens to have the word “Silver” printed on the frame. In the book, that bike actually saves two lives—once in the ’50s, when Bill uses it to save Eddie from an asthma attack, and once in the ’80s, when grown-up Bill drives down the middle of traffic on a busy street to jolt his wife out of catalepsy. Although none of that happened in the movie, the small detail of putting a name on Bill’s beloved bike probably wasn’t lost on fans.
The Bradley Gang mural
The filmmakers stuck a ton of tiny details into the background of It, but one of the best was the mural of the Bradley Gang shootout—you get a few glimpses of it on the brick wall when Mike Hanlon hallucinates the burning hands reaching through the door. In the book, the Bradley Gang was a group of outlaws who were killed by the Derry townsfolk in 1929, which was the last time Pennywise was awake before the Losers’ Club confronts him. It’s an excellent nod to the source material for anyone paying attention, although most people were probably pretty distracted by the charred hands clawing at the door frame.
The scene of the Losers’ Club swimming in the quarry midway through the film works to show how their friendship is getting stronger, but other than that it doesn’t seem particularly important to the story. And it isn’t. Still, though, one random line in that scene may be a nod to the deeper, cosmic side of Pennywise that wasn’t entirely shown in the movie. One of the kids shouts, “There’s a turtle.” It’s kind of a weird thing to say—there’s no turtle in the scene anywhere. But there is a turtle in the book. A super important turtle. A turtle that happens to be—are you ready for this?—the mortal enemy of Pennywise.
Named Maturin, the turtle in question is an ancient being that puked the universe out all over the void of nothingness that existed before the world, and it gave Bill the knowledge he needed to defeat Pennywise. Have we mentioned that Stephen King books can get a little weird? Because they definitely get a little weird.
Okay, so in the novel, Pennywise is an ancient cosmic being that existed before existence and entered our universe from the Macroverse because humans have good imaginations and all that imagination and fear makes its food taste good. He’s not really a clown, but clowns are scary and good at luring children, so he kind of sticks with it. What he really is is something called deadlights, which are archaic energy thingies that usually look like undulating orange orbs. The movie doesn’t mention those at all, but it does offer one quick glimpse.
After Pennywise kidnaps Beverly and takes her to his sewer lair, he opens his face all the way and Beverly looks down his throat to see three orange lights swirling around each other. A moment later, she’s comatose and floating in the air. It’s a giant WTF moment for anyone new to It, but diehard fans gave a silent (or, several rows back in our theater, audible) cheer. Whether or not the cosmic side of Pennywise is explored more deeply in part two is uncertain as of this writing, but the deadlights cameo in the first part certainly make for a satisfying Easter egg.
The absentee parents
As we see in the beginning of the movie, Derry has instituted a town curfew after the disappearances of Georgie Denbrough, Betty Ripsom, and others. Kids are expected to be home by seven sharp. But that appears to be the full extent of the adults’ concern or responsive action. When Bill Denbrough’s dad rips down Bill’s investigatory display in the garage and warns that he needs to move on from Georgie’s death, that’s another nod to the parents of the book, who preferred to ignore and forget about the town’s dark history. Even the mom who’s lurking around the school in hopes of finding her lost child is labeled a loon.
Mike’s grandfather seems to be the only one who truly understands the dangers of the town, while the rest of the folks are either unable or unwilling to truly intuit what’s happening. In fact, apart from Mr. Hanlon and the Denbroughs, the only parental figures in the film who get any kind of attention are the ones who’ve created additional problems for their children. Tough stuff.
Robert Dohay’s head
During the movie’s visual history of the Easter parade explosion that claimed the lives of so many kids, there’s one particularly gruesome image that the camera seems to linger on: a boy’s head up in a tree. Book fans will recognize that it wasn’t a random choice of imagery. As Mike Hanlon recalled, Robert Dohay was a nine-year-old whose remains popped up days after the rest of the victims in a neighbor’s apple tree. To make it extra ghastly, he still had chocolate on his teeth from munching on candy treats just seconds before his life was claimed by the Kitchener Ironworks explosion.
The stutter chant
Another thing book readers and fans of the miniseries will recognize is the phrase Bill uses to overcome his stutter. In the book, it’s “he thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.” In the movie, only a fraction of that is uttered by Bill, perhaps because he’s still struggling to finish it. Without the second clause, it’s a little less creepy, but the line is still seen as a major metaphor for the story as a whole. And he uses it to regain his self-confidence and strength in times of trial in the book and movie alike, so it’s still effective.
I heart Derry
Patrick Hockstetter’s death in the movie is nothing like it was in the book, but there’s still something familiar about his fate. In the movie, he comes upon a balloon that turns around to read “I Heart Derry.” It’s ominous enough standing alone, but when you remember the book’s story about Adrian Mellon, it’s even worse.
In the book, Adrian was a gay man who was beaten up and flung beneath a bridge by some homophobic bullies while wearing an “I Heart Derry” hat. While trying to rescue him, his partner saw the clown—and the overpass filled with balloons that had the same phrasing on it. Perhaps the reason the balloon came into play for Patrick here is that in the books, he too exhibited a preference for a same-sex partner, even though that didn’t make it to the screen.
Another wink to the source material is contained in the location of Georgie’s travels while chasing his paper boat. The camera pans to the street signs, which reveal he’s approaching the intersection of Jackson and Witcham, which features prominently throughout the book. The fact that he runs right into one of the sawhorses that littered the flooded street, which is also an oft-mentioned feature—well, that’s quite literally a book reference that smacks us in the face.
When the Losers gather to discuss the town’s killer clown in the park, a statue of Paul Bunyan can be seen lingering behind Mike as he fills them in on what he knows. In the book, the statue is not only there, but it also animates to taunt Richie as his own personalized fear, instead of the clowns. Perhaps the reason the statue still made it into the movie, despite not being presented as Richie’s materialized fear factor, is that the statue really does exist in Bangor, Maine, Stephen King’s neck of the woods, and has reportedly creeped all the locals out since it was erected.
After they manage to defeat It for the first time, the Losers assemble for what is, unbeknownst to them, the last time they’ll all be together. They listen to Beverly as she talks about what it was like to be under Pennywise’s deadlights, and she tells them she’s already forgetting pieces of what she experienced. That’s a definite bit of foreshadowing for what’s going to happen when they grow up and purge It and Derry as a whole from their adult memories … until It comes back again, of course.
Another subtle preview exists in the order in which the Losers take leave of each other, with Stan departing first and Eddie shortly behind him. As we know from the book’s second half, that’s also the order in which they’ll depart in entirely different ways. Stan, as an adult, is so shaken by It’s return that he takes his own life. And Eddie makes it back to Derry to fight alongside his childhood comrades but is killed in battle before It is ultimately defeated. Those are stories for Chapter Two, but It wasn’t afraid to give fans a little taste of what’s to come.