Any fan of Stephen King knows that his books have a tendency to get, well, strange. And not just in an, “Ooh, supernatural things are going on, how unusual!” way, but in a, “Wait, what the hell is happening? I better read this section again,” kind of way. Well, get ready for that sensation in movie form.
One of the smarter things the movie adaptation It: Chapter One did (honestly, what just about any successful cinematic adaptation of a King story does) was change details and omit or revise certain scenes in order to make the story play better on the big screen. At the time it came out, we discussed the wise decision to get rid of the unsettling scene where young Beverly Marsh has sex with every guy in the Losers’ Club—you know, as a “bonding” ritual. But it sounds like Chapter Two is going to retain a key scenario that, while admittedly the climactic element of the story, has always been one of the more batshit aspects of this tale.
In a new interview with CinemaBlend, It screenwriter Gary Dauberman was asked about some of the stranger elements of the back half of the book—and specifically the big showdown with Pennywise when the Losers return as adults to fight their childhood nemesis once more.
(Spoilers for how Pennywise is defeated follow—though if you thought the kids were going to lose, we have some bad news for you about how stories normally work.)
For those who looked at all 1,100 pages sitting on the bookstore shelf and said, “No thanks, I’ll wait for the movie,” our heroes defeat the supernatural evil through something called the Ritual of Chüd. At its essence, the ritual is a psychic battle of wills: Someone faces off against It by sticking out their tongue, overlapping it with the monster’s, both of them bite down, and then proceed to tell each other jokes. The first one to laugh gets banished to a netherworld.
Now, we’re willing to bet good money that director Andy Muschietti is planning on switching up this particular tactic just a little. But that doesn’t mean some form of the ritual won’t be included. As Dauberman tells it, the process was just about Muschietti figuring out the best way to do justice to the concept:
The Ritual of Chüd is challenging, but it’s such an important component to the book that we had to address it. That stuff is difficult to balance, but because [director Andy Muschietti, producer Barbara Muschietti and I] worked with each other before, when I’m writing pages and all that stuff it becomes more of a conversation and less like, ‘Hey, here’s what I did.’ It’s sort of organic; it’s really kind of just chipping away at the stone and trying to find the most focused, accessible way into some of more metaphysical aspects of that book...I think that’s something that Andy gave a lot of thought about, which was great...Andy would kind of go off and think about Chüd and how he wants to visually represent all that stuff. He just came up with some brilliant, brilliant stuff… It really is going to be amazing.
While some are taking this as evidence the ritual will remain intact, it sounds more like it’s actually a matter of the creative team coming up with ways around having our heroes exchange jokes with a clown while biting each other’s overlapped tongues. That’s just not going to happen. Besides being a conceptual mess, the producers probably don’t want audiences bursting into laughter during the climax of their blockbuster horror film.
Another bananas element of the novel, however, sounds like it’s still going to be a part of the movie. As /Film points out, in a separate interview last year, Muschietti insisted they would be keeping the giant interdimensional turtle. Why is he talking about a turtle? Oh, please let us explain: See, in the book, the animal is meant to be a sort of spiritual counterbalance to the evil of It, a yin/yang-type situation, if you will, only with the “yin” being a turtle. At least the director has a good sense of how to frame it:
The moment you introduce the element of IT, which is an interdimensional evil entity, the presence of the turtle comes with it, as a counterbalance. It doesn’t seem to play a big role, but the turtle is there. Like all mythologies, there’s a god of good and a god of evil. I didn’t want to use it as a fantastic character, but it’s hinted, every time the kids are in danger or something, I wanted to hint at the presence of the turtle…In the book, they somehow address the turtle and say ‘the turtle couldn’t help us.’ But I think in the second part, the turtle will try to help them. In the second movie, the turtle left a few clues to their childhood that they don’t remember. They have to retrieve those memories from the summer of 1989, and that’s how we jump back to 1989. The keys to defeating to Pennywise are left in the past, and as adults, they don’t remember.
So there you have it. It: Chapter 2 will probably dial back some of the weirder aspects of the Ritual of Chüd, and the turtle may or may not be the literal interdimensional turtle described at length in King’s book. But even scaled back, things are going to get weird. Just like Stephen King likes it.