It is the latest attempt by Hollywood to take one of the famed horror novels by author Stephen King and adapt it to the big screen. While this typically has produced a grab bag of quality, the newest film It stands up there as one of the best. Set in the town of Derry, Maine, the plot revolves around a group of children known as the “Losers’ Club,” trying to solve the mystery of why so many people in their town go missing. However, there are a lot more moving parts to this story and director Andy Muschietti clearly didn’t have time to explain everything. This is not only due to the fact that the novel It is insanely long, but that there’s clearly a Part II planned for this horror film.
In order to clear things up, we are going to dive into the third act and ending to explain what exactly was going on. There will obviously be spoilers, but since there is a second film on the way we are going to leave some of the best surprises out. This is simply because they are not especially relevant to the core story in this film and some information would ruin the next movie.
The plot of It largely revolves seven middle school / early highschool aged children that are considered outcasts by their peers and family. Each one suffers from a distinct fear and many of them live in broken or down right hostile households. By the time the third act rolls around all seven have already seen Pennywise The Clown (aka “It”) and are aware that he is the one causing all the trouble. We also learn via the new kid Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) that every 27 years the town suffers either a major disaster that causes a bunch of people to either wind up dead or missing.
It’s hypothesized (and later confirmed by the clown himself) that Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) has been causing all of these tragedies. We even see in a sketch depicting the founding of Derry that shows Pennywise hidden amongst of settlers just before they all went missing. Still reeling from the tragedy of losing his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scot), the main character Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) rallies his friends together to try and stop Pennywise. After a scuffle in an abandoned house that’s seen as the center point for all the chaos, the group is chased out. With two of them injured, they fracture and split off to do their own things.
This is caused solely by their fear of Pennywise and what he will do to them if they’re caught. Pennywise feeds on fear and relies on it to gain him strength, so by fracturing the group he has become stronger. While Ben and his friend Beverly (Sophia Lillis) want to fight Pennywise, the others want no part in it. We then jump to September and learn that each one is simply trying to move on from the horrors they saw.
The movie then cuts to a scene focused around the town bully Henry (Nicholas Hamilton) who is playing with his father’s gun. Right before he’s about to shoot a cat, his dad takes the pistol and fire it at his feet to embarrass Henry and scare him. Henry, still shaken and angry at his father, notices a red balloon tied to his mail box and approaches it. Upon opening it, he discovers his lost knife and then goes inside of his home. He finds his father asleep in front of a television that is showing a kid’s show that shows a young woman and some kids goading Henry on to kill his father. Driven by anger and fear, Henry murders his dad while Pennywise cheers him on from the television. The clown then commands Henry to go kill the other seven children who have been trying to stop Pennywise.
While it’s never directly explained, Pennywise actually has the ability to influence and distort people to do his bidding. Throughout It we always hear the same television show being played, each time talking about things such as sewers (where Pennywise lives) and clowns. Almost every townsperson is affected by this and It teases this idea throughout. We see scenes such as Ben getting beaten up only to have a car just drive with a red balloon in it and Beverly’s father not seeing the bloody bathroom Pennywise makes. By now it’s clear that Pennywise has complete control of Henry and sends him after the Losers’ Club.
Meanwhile, Beverly is on her way out only to be stopped by her father that has been (or at least hinted at) sexually assaulting her. In an attempt to stop her, Beverly is chased to the bathroom and then kills her dad with the back of a toilet. Right before she can escape, Pennywise grabs her, confirming that he was influencing her dad as well or at least causing him grow even more violent. When Bill arrives at her home he discovers the body of her father and some writing from Pennywise that warns him to stay away.
However, this is the rallying cry for the other six kids who all come together and decide to face their fears once and for all. Going into the abandoned home, they descend into the sewers via an old well in the basement. However, right before one could make his way down, he is jumped by Henry and attacked. A fight ensues that ends up with Henry thrown down the well along with all the extra bolts to the bolt gun he was carrying. The group confronts Pennywise once before chasing him to his domain in the middle of the sewer. There they find Beverly suspended in mid air (floating) and while they try to get her down, Bill chases off after an image of his lost brother.
Once Beverly is pulled down, they try to wake her and eventually succeed thanks to Ben kissing her. They catch up with Bill and find him staring down his brother who is begging to be brought home. Instead of giving into Pennywise’s deception he uses the last bolt in the bolt gun to shoot his “brother” in the forehead destroying the illusion. This drives Pennywise into a rage who lashes out and attacks them in an attempt to scare the children. No longer driven by fear, the group fights off one illusion after another (each one tied to a specific member of the Losers’ Gang) until he is forced back.
Right before Pennywise is killed he lets go and falls into a deep, dark hole where he is presumed to be dead. The gang then meets up and all take a blood vow to come back to Derry in 27 years if Pennywise is not dead. Each one then trails off until eventually only Bill is left standing by a river.
It is focused around the concept of facing your fears and coming together as a team. When the group is fractured and separated, Pennywise always has the upper hand. Yet, when they work together and face him head on he is not nearly as dangerous. This is meant to set up the idea that Pennywise has been surviving in Derry for centuries by feeding off the fear of the locals and manipulating anyone he doesn’t eat to ignore his presence.
Once the children all faced their respective fears and learned that they were being lied too, Pennywise was effectively rendered helpless. Now it’s never explained exactly what Pennywise is (and to say would basically ruin the second movie), but he is best described as a Lovecraftian horror. We only get very brief glimpses at his true form throughout the film, but mainly he just stays in clown form for most of the movie.
As for the film’s ending, well the main book is divided into two parts with the second focusing on the kids (now grown up) returning to the town to fight Pennywise. We never actually see him die in the movie and if you stick through the end credits you’re treated to the sound of him laughing. If you are still on the fence about seeing this movie, we highly recommend checking out It. With this and American Horror Story it’s clear that clowns are coming back in a big, terrifying way.