The trailer for IT Chapter Two shows that the second and final half of the Stephen King adaptation is changing - and potentially hurting - one of the book's best scenes. Though creative liberties are inevitable in adaptations, the scene between Beverly Marsh and Mrs. Kersh makes up the bulk of IT Chapter Two's trailer, and though it stays true to the source material, it suffers from some slight, but potentially damaging, choices.
In Stephen King's IT, a ragtag group of children known as the Losers' Club make a stand against the interdimensional, child-eating creature known as Pennywise that lives in their town. As kids, they defeat, but fail to kill it. As adults, they return to their hometown to confront Pennywise once again, and IT Chapter Two follows the adult Losers on their return to Derry, Maine to finish what they started. While the first film did justice to King's book - not to mention broke box office records - some changes divided fans, and that divisive style appears to have carried over to the sequel.
IT Chapter Two's trailer begins with an extended scene in which Beverly (Jessica Chastain) visits her childhood home, only to discover that an old woman, Mrs. Kersh, now lives there. The two share some pleasantries as Mrs. Kersh offers Beverly tea and cookies - that is, until Beverly discovers that Mrs. Kersh isn't who she appears to be. Little by little, Beverly discovers that the woman is none other than Pennywise himself, fooling Beverly long enough to finally attack. However, even though this is one of the book's most effective scenes, its translation to the screen has some noticeable issues that risks taking away from the original scene's slow and subtle burn.
The Scene from Stephen King's Book
After the Losers return to Derry as adults, they decide that splitting up might be the most effective move before finally coming together in their final battle. Each of them visits places from their past that had some lasting effect on them, and so, Beverly returns home. The thing is, not only does she discover that an old woman named Mrs. Kersh is living in her father's home but also that her father died years ago (news she missed on account of their estrangement).
Mrs. Kersh invites Beverly inside as a courtesy, and the two indulge each other with some smalltalk over tea and cookies, mostly chatting about how the home has changed. Mrs. Kersh is quiet, but kind, feeling slightly obligated to entertain on account of being the one to tell her that her father had died. However, Beverly quickly realizes that something is wrong. Details around the house and on the woman that seemed pleasant soon turn anything but (Bev's tea isn't just muddy, but human excrement; the woman's fingers aren't fingers at all, but claws), and she quickly realizes that she is in danger.
By this time, Beverly understands that this experience aligns with Pennywise's entire M.O. when it comes to scaring the Losers, donning the appearance of classic movie or literary monsters. For Ben, he was the Mummy; for Richie, he was the Wolf Man; and for Beverly, he's the witch from Hansel and Gretel - which becomes obvious when the once-sweet old woman transforms into a hideous, decaying version of her former self. She also discovers that the house doesn't belong to anyone at all, as it's been neglected and boarded up, and that this was all one giant ruse from Pennywise all along.
How IT Chapter Two Changes The Scene
In the footage from IT Chapter Two's trailer, the scene plays out similarly to King's book, but not without some changes. Apart from some harmless - and maybe even beneficial - additions, like a physical look at Mrs. Kersh's father (or "fadder"), the scene struggles doing justice to the source material on account of continuing one of the first film's biggest flaws: replacing slow burns with abrupt terror. From Pennywise's spasmodic movements to the manic, jerky pacing, immediacy takes a front seat. And, though this might be based more in necessity on account of how much book Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman needed to condense into a single film, the approach undermined the horror, turning what was terrifying in King's novel into something more slapdash and hurried.
This immediate, get-to-the-point style is evident from the start in the trailer for IT Chapter Two, specifically with Mrs. Kersh. The reason the scene in the novel is so effective and memorable is for how cleverly it pulls the rug out from underneath its readers. Bev has some reservations, but she's mostly as convinced as the reader ought to be that all is as well as well can be in a town like Derry. So, when Mrs. Kersh finally starts showing her true colors, the reader feels as taken aback as Bev. In the trailer, however, Mrs. Kersh is strange from get-go (her personality is even reminiscent of the "grandmother" from M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit, for better or worse).
IT Chapter Two Hopefully Fixes Flaws from the First IT
The first IT was a strong adaptation of King's novel, but some interpretations of his style of horror didn't translate especially well. Unfortunately, that same approach makes up the bulk of this trailer's "creepiest" moments. And while that's not to say that the rest of the film will necessarily follow suit, it might be discouraging for certain King enthusiasts. The tone and atmosphere was spot-on in the first IT, but a healthy amount of criticism was aimed at how some of the film's meticulous and measured moments of suspense were bookended by underwhelming and overstimulated payoffs. These are stylistic choices that might work for some (movies are subjective, after all), but they don't always do justice to King's trademark styles - which is, to be fair, already a tall order to satisfy.
This was still just IT Chapter Two's trailer, and watching the scene in its entirety may prove that the interpretation does justice to this moment in the book. That said, this reaction is less a premature judgment of the film itself than it is a cautious first impression, and King fans have every reason to be apprehensive. Aside from a few solid exceptions (The Shawshank Redemption, Misery), the track record for King adaptations isn't especially strong. So, until IT Chapter Two is finally released, occasional nitpicking from anxious fans will be as difficult to avoid as Pennywise after a 27-year-long hibernation.
- IT Chapter Two (2019) release date: Sep 06, 2019