Every 27 years, a clown comes back to haunt America. That day finally came on Friday with the release of It, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel (and a 1990 miniseries) about a clown who preys on children in a small town in Maine. After facing our fears—which were great—The Ringer staff came together to talk about the movie’s best parts, Stranger Things fatigue, and who should play the Losers’ Club in the upcoming sequel.
1. What is your tweet-length review of It?
Donnie Kwak: Probably the most stressful two hours of my adult life.
Ben Lindbergh: A King adaptation that does Derry right, and a horror movie whose characters conquer their fears at the same time the audience does.
Andrew Gruttadaro: There were way too many kids in my screening and they all seemed to enjoy it way too much.
I resent STRANGER THINGS for exhausting my tolerance for the very thing it's copying— Alison Herman (@aherman2006) September 10, 2017
Jason Gallagher: It was fine. Some really enjoyable moments but overall I thought it was way too long for a fairly predictable scary movie. Also #TimCurry4Lyfe.
Chris Ryan: Well, I’ve totally conquered any lingering fear I had of circus performers.
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
K. Austin Collins: I’m into watching clowns terrorize people. So, those parts.
Herman: Say what you will about the half-baked plotting that set them up—even by horror movie standards, there are some real "how stupid are you supposed to be?" moments—but the pure horror sequences were legitimately terrifying. My vote goes to "sink hair monster" for channeling a phobia I didn't even know I had.
Gruttadaro: I really liked how much the kids said the F-word.
Lindbergh: Bev—and only Bev—spotting Ben’s New Kids on the Block poster.
Ryan: The sailboat sequence and the introduction to Pennywise. Though I should say that as someone who was 11 in 1988, I never, in my entire life, looked out the window on a rainy day and thought, You know what would make this day cooler? Applying some industrial wax to notebook paper to create a sailboat to float on my street. And apparently that lack of imagination saved me from being bitten in half by a demon clown. Thanks for saving my life, Nintendo.
Kwak: Ben: “Derry was founded as a beaver-trapping town.”
Richie: “Still is … right boys?”
Gallagher: ROCK FIGHT.
3. What was your least favorite part?
Collins: You get one New Kids on the Block joke per movie, if that. Don’t push it.
Herman: The incredibly clichéd "cuts hair angrily" scene that enabled said sink monster, plus the majority of Beverly's character. This movie isn't nearly smart or self-aware enough to pull off sexualizing a tween girl and telling a story about her horrific sexual abuse. Maybe It's trying to make a point about how idealizing women flattens out their humanity and therefore their trauma, but the movie comes off as hypocritical in a very gross way instead.
Lindbergh: Bev’s abduction. Not only is it oddly timed—it feels unfair that Pennywise appears inside her home just after she confronts and overcomes her fear of her father—but it puts her in the position of needing to be rescued, despite being as capable and brave as any member of the Losers’ Club.
Kwak: I thought Pennywise was likable and charming compared to Bev’s father.
Gallagher: When the movie dipped into each and every kid's individual fears halfway through the movie—hitting the following beats one right after another:
1. Kid is doing something.
2. Kid hears something.
3. Kid follows the thing he/she hears.
4. Music fades out.
5. [Extremely Brick voice] LOUD NOISES.
6. Kid escapes.
This happened in that order for five straight scenes, in total lasting about 35 minutes or so. I almost fell asleep.
Gruttadaro: Each kid’s personal scares were legitimately scary, but the back-to-back-to-back way they were presented made It start to feel like the beginning of Suicide Squad.
Ryan: It didn’t particularly scare me, but the movie was too scary. It is essentially a collection of don’t-go-down-there scenes, with some brief detours into character development. Good horror scares the crap out of you. Great horror keeps terror on a leash, knowing that if you develop characters, and put said characters in scary situations, the audience’s fear will grow. It just throws the kitchen sink at you, and hopes you are too dazed to ask questions. At first it’s gripping, but midway into the second act, the thrills start to fade. The thing that makes something like Jaws scary is the build-up, the 20-30 minutes between attacks. It had too many characters that needed to be confronted by their own deepest fears. By the time they got that out of the way, it was time to go racing into the underground denouement.
4. Finish the sentence: “Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Clown was …”
Ryan: … good!
Gruttadaro: … more cartoonish than I expected, but he pulled it off.
Kwak: … like my man Shea said: a perfect movie monster.
Collins: … hideous. Oh, and good.
Gallagher: ... no Tim Curry.
Herman: … four lines of actual acting buffered by two hours of CGI. It's kind of hard to evaluate a performance that's more of a grace note on a bunch of special effects work.
Lindbergh: … through no fault of his own, occasionally and regrettably reminiscent of Lucas the “Whaboom” guy.
5. Who was your favorite member of the Losers’ Club?
Kwak: Richie, hereafter known as Yung Coke Bottles. His banter was god-level.
Lindbergh: Finn Wolfhard as Richie. Can we somehow freeze Finn at 14 so he can continue to star as a wisecracking ’80s outcast kid who rides bikes and solves supernatural mysteries?
Gallagher: I mean, how is it not the funny Stranger Things kid? He had more “mom” and “dick” jokes than I knew existed, and I'm not mad at any of them. Also, remember the repetitive scary beats from earlier? Well, the filmmakers didn't do that with him. They just had someone ask him what scares him the most and he simply replied, “clowns.” Boom. Done. We moved on. That was so refreshing.
Collins: Ben. I like history nerds.
Herman: Stan! Bar mitzvah anxiety and ritual-guilt-induced fear are real and Jewish middle schooler representation is important.
Gruttadaro: I loved the hypochondriac kid, Eddie. His line, “You know these are? Gazebos!” made me laugh harder than anything else I’ve seen in theaters this year.
6. What was your biggest childhood fear?
Gruttadaro: Answering prodding questions.
Lindbergh: Being kidnapped, although not necessarily by a demonic clown.
Kwak: Being buried alive b/w the melting faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Gallagher: Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
Ryan: Sharks. And dudes like Henry Bowers.
Herman: Ironically, movie theaters.
7. If you’re Bev, who do you pick: the poet Ben, or the brave leader Bill?
Lindbergh: I wanted it to be Ben, and not just because he and I share a name and a love for libraries. But clearly the chemistry was with Bill. One of the staples of coming-of-age stories is learning that adulthood sometimes sucks, and one of the fastest ways to do that is to discover that you don’t always get the girl/guy. (At least not until the sequel.)
Ryan: Ben probably goes on to write A Song of Ice and Fire.
Herman: Neither! Bev needs some alone time—and friends who don't constantly ogle her.
Gruttadaro: Damn, the development of Ben’s friend-zoning was extremely hard to watch. Then again, you can’t really blame Bev for using the same reasoning that Katie uses when she picks Andy over Coop at the end of Wet Hot American Summer.
Kwak: She should go with Bill for now. When he messes up, Ben will be waiting.
Gallagher: Despite how romantic it is to kiss the boy who just cut your hand with a shard of glass, I'd have to go with the poet Ben.
8. Who ya got: 2017 It or 1990 It?
Gruttadaro: Still 1990. Tim Curry put a spell on me.
Collins: The movie: 2017.
The character: 1990.
Lindbergh: 2017 It > 1927 It > 1990 It.
Kwak: The 1990 version is to Skinemax what the 2017 one is to actual porn. It’s a bit unfair, but a made-for-network-TV movie can only be so scary.
9. Chapter 2 of It will take place 27 years after Chapter 1. Cast the sequel below.
Lindbergh: Bev—Maggie Gyllenhaal
Bill—Freddie Prinze Jr.
Gruttadaro: All I care about is Warner Bros. somehow getting Amy Adams to play older Bev.
Ryan: You gotta go with Amy Adams for Bev. Elsewhere, I think it would be funny if, mirroring his own soft-to-swole journey, Chris Pratt played Ben.
Herman: Amy Adams as adult Beverly in a spinoff focused on the aforementioned alone time; nobody for the rest of the group. I'm sure they'll be fine defeating Pennywise on their own—Bev working stuff out in therapy is what I really wanna see.
Kwak: Bill—Andrew Garfield
Ben—Tom Hardy (puberty was a game-changer)
Yung Coke Bottles—Andy Samberg
Eddie—Milo Ventimiglia (I wanted Mario Cantone here, but he’s just too old)