Even the great Stephen King himself has expressed his utter joy at having found the many links between Stranger Things and his sci-fi masterpieces. Furthermore, the Duffer brothers have not been coy about who and what inspired the show. Eleven shares many similarities with King's most famous anti-heroine, Carrie, such as her psychic powers and sinister upbringing, while there are strong whiffs of Stand By Me like the scene where they walk along train tracks in search of Will.
As you may know, the Duffer brothers had originally pitched an IT adaptation but were rejected. Thankfully they went on to create Stranger Things, which has gained a huge fan base who more than appreciate its retro take on the science fiction genre. With inspiration from the likes of King and Spielberg, you can draw many comparisons between Stranger Things and some of your favourite classics, including IT. In the very first episode, Joyce, played by Winona Ryder, asks Will if he's scared of clowns and even Eleven’s name could be a reference to a famous quote from IT: “What can be done when you’re eleven can often never be done again." And in case you were wondering, Finn Wolfhard's role as Richie Tozier is just a mere coincidence as recently relayed by the director of IT, Andie Muschietti.
Because of our love for all things strange, it is our absolute joy to present you with 15 Things Stranger Things Stole From Stephen King's IT.
The fact that Stranger Things adopts the same font as many of Stephen King’s book covers has cropped up in numerous articles comparing the show to King's work. Indeed, throughout the entire season, you can find small copycat clues that link to one King novel or another.
With today’s obsession with all that is retro, it’s not hard to see why they chose this font for the title of the show and although this type of lettering is mainly linked to King’s novels, similar fonts can be found on a wide range of vintage horror and sci-fi books. Anyone remember those Point Horror books as a kid? The dark backdrop with the large domineering letters were too enticing not to pick up. As soon as you see those bold big red letters with the bent edges, you know your retromania will be put to rest!
Ben from IT and Mike from Stranger Things both take a liking to the 'new girl', and we see how they deal with their new feelings of attraction and protectiveness. From the outset it is clear that both groups have little experience with the female gender, but we slowly see them grow in confidence as the girls become a welcome addition.
Both Eleven and Beverly bring a certain level of maturity and common-sense to their groups which the boys do not possess. This is most likely down to their experiences, which have made them wary of adults and given them a darker outlook on things. With the new arrivals, we are able to see the boys, Ben and Mike, tackle these foreign emotions. Their love for the young girls mean they both have a lot more to lose, making the danger all the more menacing.
There are some prominent female characters in both. In IT, it is Beverly Marsh, a girl who is abused by her father, who later becomes a victim of domestic abuse as she struggles to leave the second violent man in her life.
In Stranger Things, Eleven also has a complex relationship with her own "father figure", Brenner. Eleven calls him 'Papa' and it is not yet known if this man is her real dad or not, although it seems unlikely. Brenner is the director of the Hawkins lab in which Eleven was kept prisoner for experimental purposes. Here, Eleven led an isolated life and is yet to learn about her mother, whom she was taken from as a baby.
While Beverly's relationship with her own family is strained and Eleven's non-existent, it is their misfortune that so fervently ties them to their friends.
Most kids need a hideaway. Whether to escape the unyielding glare of their parents or the equally unyielding presence of their bullies, it allows them to be free of the world to which they are bound. A den or a meeting point form a safe space where the kids can speak with honesty, allowing you to become part of their inner circle.
The Barrens in IT is not the most ideal place for children (a bit of land covered in trees next to a landfill), but the kids find some peace here and the natural environment allows them to create their own little paradise.
In Stranger Things, Will has his own self-built fort in the middle of the local woods. The power of Will’s sanctuary should not be dismissed as Will uses it to hide from the Demogorgon in the Upside Down. Comparably, the four boys find solace in Mike’s basement, which becomes an important location for planning Will’s rescue and hiding Eleven.
The tragic events in both IT and Stranger Things can easily be linked. IT starts with the death of George Denbrough, Bill’s brother. George is six years of age when he goes out in the rain to play with the boat Bill made him. The boat leads him to a sewer where Pennywise awaits, and you can imagine the rest. Equally, Will is seized by the Demogorgon at the beginning of Stranger Things.
Mike and Bill’s losses push the stories forward and motivate them into finding some answers. A brief conversation between Will and Mike before he leaves alludes to what is about to take place when Will confesses that he was defeated by the Demogorgon during their game of D&D, making Mike feel weirdly uneasy. Similarly, in IT, once Bill completes the boat, George gives his brother a kiss to show his appreciation and Bill reciprocates the gesture with an "I love you." These unexpected signs of affection leave the brothers touched but a little unsettled.
‘It’ likes the taste of children because their fear is particularly delicious, plus they are easier to catch than adults. But what about the Demogorgon?
In Stranger Things, it seems equally as drawn to adults as it is to children, although we are yet to learn its ulterior motives (if it had any) or why it was suddenly able to move between the Upside Down and the regular world. For obvious reasons, many have compared the Demogorgon to the monster with the same name from D&D.
Evidently the Hawkins lab has a fixation with children, having taken the newly born Eleven hostage after drugging the mother and giving the child psychic abilities. Due to Eleven’s name, it seems as though there could be other numbered children scattered across various labs, but this remains to be seen.
The kids in Stranger Things are social outcasts, preferring to hang out with their science teacher than with the other rather intimidating kids at their school. They get bullied, as you do when you’re a kid who likes D&D, but this also makes their circle stronger.
In IT, the Losers' Club are persecuted by Henry Bowers and his gang. They are all united by their ‘loser’ label and each possess a weakness or characteristic that makes them stand out from the rest of their peers. Eddie has his asthma, Ben has his weight and Bill has his stutter (much like Dustin who has cleidocranial dysplasia which gives him his lisp).
The bullies are an exasperating obstacle in both Stranger Things and IT, but it is this obstacle that draws both groups of friends even closer together.
King is renowned for his focus on friendship, especially those which are cemented by childhood. In both Stand By Me and The Dreamcatcher, the friendships are depicted with a glaring honesty.
There is spitefulness and jealousy in both circles of friends, but these negative feelings are usually overshadowed by their love for one another. In IT, the gang often find Richie's voices and sometimes mere presence annoying but he is also respected for his strength and quick wit. In Stranger Things we see Mike and Lucas have a physical fight over whether Eleven is trustworthy or not, before which Lucas says: “You’re blind. Blind because you like that a girl is not grossed out by you.” Harsh words you might say, but their closeness is magnified because of them. Lucas is only that angry because Mike is his best friend and their ability to look past each other’s angry insults gives their friendship a new level of understanding.
Bikes are a necessary mode of transport for any kid, but especially for those who need to escape the repetiveness of their hometown. In both IT and Stranger Things, the bikes are a much needed device, no only to get to 'out of the way' places, but also in their quest to defeat the baddies.
In IT, Eddie uses his bike to venture to the railway and watch the trains speed by, presumably because he likes to think of the world outside Derry. Additionally, Bill buys his beloved bike Silver with his own money after the death of his brother. He enjoys the rush he gets from speeding downhill (especially because Silver’s brakes don't work). Bill's recklessness when it comes to his own life can be perceived as guilt for not having been there to protect George. Silver also gets Bill out of some very sticky situations, as do the bikes in Stranger Things which allow the children to escape the terrifying Hawkins lab workers.
Pennywise (or 'It') is not a clown, but an evil entity that is millions of years old and came to existence within a macroverse before the creation of the universe itself. The entity has to take on the form of something else in order to become visible to its victims, usually opting for something that will scare the sh** out of them. The entity often lurks in or near the sewers, as it waits for its prey.
Likewise, the Demogorgon comes from an alternate universe and usually only breaks through into the normal world when it sniffs out blood. Like 'It', the Demogorgon is more than just a weird looking monster. Some have hypothesized that the monster is Eleven’s own creation and a product of the despair and terror she felt at the lab. It can be said that the manifestations of 'It' are also the creations of children, conjured up from their deepest fears.
As before mentioned, each child has a weakness which not only leaves them vulnerable to bullies, but often causes them to make bad decisions. Despite this, they also have a ton of qualities as each one brings something different to the table. In Stranger Things, Lucas displays a level-headedness that is unusual for someone his age, while Mike encourages loyalty amongst the group. In IT, Mike is smart and eager to learn about the things around him while Bill knows how to build confidence in others. Even Eddie owns a great inner strength that only becomes apparent later on.
For the children in IT, it is their own life complications that help them combat 'It', even though the entity sees these as an Achilles heel. Similarly, in Stranger Things, their own vulnerability forms impenetrable alliance between the children and a squad resilience that is hard to come by.
The children are a lot more capable of understanding the enemy despite them being an easy target in both. In Stranger Things, aside from Will’s mum, the science teacher and the cop, the adults are either coming for them (Brenner, etc.), refusing to listen to them (the Wheelers) or completely out of the picture (Will’s father). Moreover, the children choose to hide their discoveries from their parents, hinting at their distrust of the adult world.
In IT, the children often feel neglected by the adults, most notably Bill, whose parents are too caught up in his younger brother’s death to pay him much attention and Beverly, whose father beats her. Furthermore, the adults are all too eager to forget the horrifying events happening in Derry while the children are unable to do so, showing a wisdom and strength that is lacking amongst their elders. As is quoted in King’s IT: “Eddie discovered one of his childhood's great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.”
As discussed, it's been hypothesised that the Demogorgon is Eleven's own creation and came into existence because of the trauma she underwent at the Hawkins Lab. If so, then it’s likely everyone has the potential to create one. This theory mostly derives from the Demogorgon having similar abilities to Eleven, for example, when it unlocks a door from the outside using its mind and even Eleven goes on to say, “I am the monster.” It’s still uncertain whether she meant this metaphorically or not, as she could have been alluding to the fact that she is just as dangerous as the Demogorgon.
'It' has an extensive list of powers (most notably that of shape-shifting), which includes the ability to move objects. Speaking of mind power, King is renowned for including a psychic character here and there, and often hints at the possibility of telepathy between loved ones, much like Mike’s unease at Will leaving his house or Joyce’s natural ability to contact her absent son.
As we all know, a suburban town is the perfect setting for any sci-fi or horror movie. The relationships in a small town become prominent because there is little to do but scurry around on bikes, go to the pictures, make out, and well, bully the goofy kids. Sound familiar? Well it is. This similarity pretty much goes for most teen sci-fi or horror movies and the reason for this is: it just works!
Not only this, but the picturesque towns make for a great backdrop, what with the woods, the retro stores and the creaky houses. We’ve seen it done before in movies such as E.T., Halloween and let’s not forget the more recent Super 8. In the cities there’s just not the same haunting quietness that allows for some incredible jumps and it's because of these sleepy neighbourhoods that the larger than life characters are able to radiate so much. And who doesn’t love watching a tranquil suburbia turn into a spine-chilling hell?
Both stories are set in the 80s but the kids in IT have all grown up by then while the kids in Stranger Things are still minors. Coincidentally, in the 2017 film version of IT, the time period in which their childhood occurs was changed from the 50s to the 80s.
The past possesses a certain romantic quality that is impossible to match; for starters, there are no iPhones or Uber drivers. Do you really think Stranger Things would be the same if they were plagued by five dollar cancellation fees and useless GIFs from group chats?
Many of the problems faced in 50s Derry, Maine are similar to those faced in 80s Hawkins, Indiana. The inadequate police force, the mistreatment of women, homophobia and the complex family units are issues that are commmon today yet might be represented differently in a more contemporary show. To top it all off, the old towns, the music (reminiscent of the time) and the outfit choices make for some damn good visuals.
Did you notice any other striking similarities? Let us know in the comments!