This It Chapter Two article contains spoilers.
It Chapter Two is the culmination of the most ambitious Stephen King adaptation to date. Director Andy Muschietti brings the Losers’ grand adventure to a close 27 years after their first confrontation with Pennywise the Clown, the monster who has brought down unimaginable horrors upon the town of Derry, Maine.
In the second installment, the grown-up Losers’ Club must revisit their pasts, relive traumas they’d hidden away, and come face to face with King’s most terrifying villain for the last time. It’s an action-packed horror epic more than worth your time.
After you’ve watched the movie, check out all of the easter eggs and references we found to King’s work, real-life haunts, and other horror callbacks. This is still a work in progress, so let us know in the comments if you spotted anything that we missed!
It Chapter Two: Stephen King Easter Eggs
– It was heavily inspired by the Norwegian fairy tale “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” the story of three goats that outsmart a bridge troll: “I decided that the bridge could be the city, if there was something under it,” King wrote on his website. “What’s under a city? Tunnels. Sewers … I thought of how such a story might be cast; how it might be possible to create a ricochet effect, interweaving the stories of the children and the adults they become. Sometime in the summer of 1981 I realized that I had to write the troll under the bridge or leave him—IT—forever.”
– Derry, Maine is one of the most haunted and messed up places in the King universe, along with Castle Rock, Jerusalem’s Lot, Ludlow, and a few others. It’s appeared in quite a few of his stories besides It, including Insomnia, Bag of Bones, Dreamcatcher, and 11/22/63.
Derry is actually modeled after King’s hometown of Bangor, Maine, although the writer began thinking about It while living in Boulder, Colorado. He told Bangor Daily News, “My wife and I lived with our kids for a year or so in Boulder, Colorado, which was where I got the rough idea for IT. I wanted to write about a city that had been haunted by a monstrous entity for hundreds of years.”
– When you drive into downtown Bangor, you’ll likely encounter the Kenduskeag Stream Canal, which also runs through Derry (simply known as the Derry Canal). A version of this canal also appears in the Castle Rock TV series.
– The movie also revisits the sewer drain where poor Georgie met his doom. The famous sequence was inspired by a sewer drain in Bangor. For years, this particular sewer drain on the corner of Jackson and Union St. has been one of the main tourist spots for Constant Readers.
– It Chapter Two opens with the violent death of a gay man named Adrian Mellon (played by Xavier Dolan). Mellon’s murder by a group of hateful and homophobic teenagers is based on the real-life murder of Charles O. Howard in 1984. Howard was assaulted by three teenagers and thrown off the State Street Bridge in Bangor.
– We are introduced to James McAvoy’s adult Bill while he is working on fixing the screenplay for a movie his wife is starring in. That film is hilariously being directed by the legendary Peter Bogdanovich, who has only directed one actual theatrical release in the last 15 years. I guess the ending of Bill’s book he’s adapting couldn’t be that bad, eh?
– It’s not surprising that Bill became a writer as an adult. King loves writing about writers with dark pasts and secrets. Other writers King has put through the ringer include Thad Beaumont in The Dark Half, Mort Rainey in “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” Paul Sheldon in Misery, Ben Mears in Salem’s Lot, and Jack Torrance in The Shining.
– That crack about Bill’s endings is a tongue-in-cheek reference to one of the criticisms lodged at King himself, who has written countless horror masterpieces but can’t always stick the landings. The endings for The Dark Tower and The Stand, in particular, have gotten quite a bit of flack over the years.
It itself has been notoriously criticized for its ending. And given how radically It Chapter Two changes the final confrontation between the Losers’ Club and It, similar to changes made for the finale in 2017’s It, this feels like Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman openly critiquing the novel.
– Throughout the movie, we see glimpses of one of Bill’s novels, The Black Rapids, which he subconsciously based on his first fight with It. As far as we can tell, this novel doesn’t appear as an easter egg in any other King movie. Correct us if we’re wrong!
– King describes Adult Bill as “homely” at one point in the novel (and bald), but actor James McAvoy is too handsome for that kind of description. Muschietti clearly decided to go with Hot Bill for It Chapter Two.
– We are introduced early on to Bill’s wife Audra (Jess Weixler), who has a much bigger role in the novel. On the page, Bill is working on her film (which is not based on one of his own books) as a favor to repair their marriage. Audra thus feels obligated to follow him to Derry after he starts raving about a dead brother she never knew he had. Once there, she is kidnapped and forced to stare into the Deadlights by… Beverly’s husband?! (It should also be noted this plot point was given to Beverly in 2017’s It, while she never floated in the book.)
– Yes, we are also introduced to a nasty piece of work named Tom, who is husband to Bev (Jessca Chastain), presenting the disquieting subtext that Beverly has essentially married her abusive father. He is actually scarier in the book too, which sees him follow Beverly to Derry in order to kill her. He becomes seduced by It/Pennywise after Henry Bowers is killed and becomes It’s agent. He also dies on the page by looking into the Deadlights, which he proves too weak to withstand in a very Lovecraftian styled affectation.
– Eddie (James Ransone) is introduced driving a luxury car when he gets the fateful phone call to return to Derry. While he briefly describes his career as being in risk analysis, this specific image of him appears to be a wink to book readers, as Eddie owned a prestigious limousine company in the novel.
– Stephen King cameos as the owner of the pawn shop that Bill visits in Derry. The writer is actually known for appearing in many adaptations of his work. His most famous movie role remains the dim-witted Jordy Verrill in George A. Romero’s Creepshow.
– While in King’s shop — who is at his Jud-est, a la Pet Sematary — Bill buys Silver, an old-timey bicycle that has a much grander importance in the book. Silver, the metal, turns out to be a fatal weapon to use against It, which is foreshadowed by Bill being able to “beat the devil” when It chases him and Richie while they’re on the bike. It is named after the Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver, hence Bill shouting in this film, “Hi ho, Silver, away!” (It made more sense in the book that he’d be a fan, as Bill grew up in the 1950s instead of the ‘80s.)
– We are introduced to the Capitol Movie Theater in the present when adult Richie Tozier wanders into the decrepit theater. Behind him is a torn poster of the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks rom-com, You’ve Got Mail (1998). This tells us the theater died, likely due to some swanky new multiplex, in the late ‘90s, but it also is a nice joke since poor Adrian Mellon unfavorably compared one of the homophobic bullies taunting him to Meg Ryan.
Actually, the closing of the Capitol Theater seems like some pretty overt criticism of how big theater chains and streaming services have slowly caused many old-timey movie palaces to go out of business in the past few years. At least in NYC. RIP Sunshine Cinema.
– It Chapter One and Chapter Two filmed in Port Hope in Ontario, Canada, the real-life home of this particular Capitol Theatre, which is still open today unlike its Derry counterpart.
– Young Richie hanging out at Derry’s movie theater is an obvious homage to a major setpiece in the novel It that was excised from both movies: namely the time that Richie, Beverly, and Ben go to see I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and then start a fight with Henry Bowers by throwing popcorn on his head. Richie gets in a smaller scrape here with Henry.
– Young Richie plays Street Fighter in the Capitol Theater. This was the arcade cabinet from 1987 that launched the beloved fighting game franchise and probably ate up all of the Losers’ tokens for the next three summers. We also see cabinets for Rampage and Mortal Kombat. However, the latter is a mistake since that arcade game didn’t come out until 1992, but as Warner Bros. has a Mortal Kombat movie in the works (as well as their Rampage franchise), we suspect this might’ve been intentional.
– The movie on the Capitol’s marquee is A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, which hit the big screen on Aug. 11, 1989. It garnered pretty negative reviews and was the installment that finally convinced New Line (which is also the studio behind these It movies!) to end the series in 1991 with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare… until Wes Craven brought old Freddy back in 1994.
This also feels like a wink to the similarities between Pennywise/It and Freddy Krueger, as they both feed off the power elicited from their victims’ fear, and they can take the shape of what scares you most. This is a coincidence as King spent five years writing It, beginning in 1981 and culminating with its publication in 1986. We imagine he must’ve been at least mildly annoyed when Wes Craven’s similar demonic creation started popping up in multiplexes annually, beginning with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
– The Paul Bunyan statue that attacks Adult Richie is an actual statue in Bangor’s Bass Park. In the book, it attacks Richie as an adult, although in the film they made that a flashback.
– Muschietti makes many changes to Adult Richie in the movie. For one thing, Richie in the book is a famous radio DJ and not a stand-up comedian. He also no longer wears his signature glasses, using contacts instead. He also is straight while the movie seems to suggest Richie could be gay.
– When Beverly visits the old woman living in the apartment that used to belong to her father, she confronts an almost storybook level of evil. In the novel, this is expressed with the old house (not a flat) turning into decaying candy, a la Hansel and Gretel, and the old woman becoming a fairy tale witch. In the movie, she is more like a digital version of Robert Eggers’ vision of olde New England in The Witch.
– There also two quick references to The Shining: Bowers says “Here’s Johnny!” at one point in the movie, and the other Shining reference comes when Bev is trapped in the bathroom filling up with blood — a nod to the infamous elevator scene in Stanley Kubrick’s movie.
– Bev being covered in blood during the third act also feels potentially like a small nod to Sissy Spacek during the finale of Carrie (1976).
– While Ben (Jay Ryan) is wandering around his old school, he passes a large model of a turtle. Giant turtles are kind of a big deal in It, which we further give godly detail to below.
– Ben also has a flashback of a time he was stalked by It/Pennywise, which took the form of Beverly to seduce him. It then says, “Kiss me, fat boy.” This does not come from King’s novel, but is rather an homage to the kitchy 1990 It miniseries that sees a similar situation play out, albeit between adults Pennywise (Tim Curry) and Ben (John Ritter). It comes off more comical though with Curry going the full Frank ‘n Furter on Ben by laying a big wet one on his lips.
– In both the movie and novel, Henry attacks Eddie back at the inn. That said, the knife-wielding maniac stabs Ed in the face in the movie, while he breaks his arm in the novel. Either way, Eddie is able to defend himself, killing Henry in the book and severely wounding him in the movie. Richie kills Henry in It Chapter Two.
– It Chapter Two doesn’t spend too much time exploring Pennywise’s backstory, although it does hint at his extra-terrestrial origin. King establishes in the novel that It is actually an ancient, shape-shifting monster known as a Glamour, which feeds on fear. The creature hails from the Macroverse, a void of chaos that surrounds our own universe. The Deadlights Pennywise uses to take control of his victims are also an ancient energy from the Macroverse.
– The climax of the film begins with the Losers returning to Neibolt Street and being separated. Bill, Richie, and Eddie face young Stan the Man’s head taunting them from inside a refrigerator, which actually happens earlier in the novel when they’re all relaxing at the library. In a new addition though, the spider grows legs kind of like John Carpenter’s The Thing. It becomes overt when Richie says, “You’ve gotta’ be fucking kidding me,” which was a direct homage of dialogue suggested by Bill Hader on the set.
– It becoming a human child-sized spider is also a wink and an homage to King’s original ending where It reveals its true form as being closest to that of a giant spider. It also has baby spiders that begin to hatch and that Ben leads the way of stomping on and massacring. Ben stabbing Stan-the-Spider feels like a nod to that. Pennywise also having spider legs at the end of the movie is likewise an adaptation of this more esoteric shape It takes in the book.
– In the movie, Mike Hanlon discovers the Ritual of Chüd, allegedly the only way to kill It once and for all, but it’s Ben who discovers the ritual as a boy in the novel. Bill and the rest of the Losers used this ritual in both battles against It, which plays out quite differently in the novel. A major aspect, in fact, involves psychically being able to bite It’s tongue and to then cross the Macroverse that It is still linked to… yeah, King really does have a problem with endings!
Speaking of Chüd, the Losers first happen upon the concept by trying to engineer an “Indian Smokehole” in the clubhouse Ben built for the group. By being able to stay in the smoke longest, Richie and Mike have visions of how It came to Earth. The film tries to be slightly less racially insensitive and Yikes-y by having Mike learn of this vision from actual Natives who used to live on the lands that eventually became Derry.
– And speaking of Mike, the adult version of the character plays a much bigger role in the movie’s climax than he does in the book. Mike is actually not a part of the final battle against It, having been sent to the hospital after being attacked by an insane Henry Bowers.
– Going back to the literary Ritual of Chüd for a moment: during the Losers’ first battle with It in Derry’s sewers, Bill is aided by an ancient turtle god named Maturin, the monster’s nemesis who also accidentally created our own universe. Maturin also hails from the Macroverse and created our existence when he got a stomach ache and vomited out our plane of reality.
– The Neibolt Street House imploding feels like a small scale version of what happens in the novel. In the book, all of Derry meets an apocalyptic disaster akin to a hurricane sweeping away the corruption and complicity the township’s citizenry have lived in for generations. Buildings and old-timers who knew too much alike are essentially washed away. It’s biblical stuff and kind of sadly missing here.
Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye