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Moments In The 1990 It Movie That Are Scarier Than The Remake

There are a lot of reasons why Stephen King's It was ripe for revival onscreen in 2017. It'd been 27 years since the last adaptation, which is a fateful number in the story; clowns are always scary; and, well, the 1990 TV miniseries simply couldn't capture the most terrifying elements of King's bestseller under network restrictions and a small-screen budget.

The outdated special effects in particular have rendered certain portions of the original It film laughable, rather than frightening. Even so, there are certain scenes in the 1990 miniseries that still hold up—and are even scarier than the new big-screen It.

The moving pictures

The 2017 version of It includes a memorably terrifying sequence in which Pennywise comes to life within a sinister slideshow, but the 1990 version of that moment is a bit eerier in some respects. 

For one thing, Bill Denbrough is alone and still completely grief-stricken about his brother Georgie's funeral when he first comes into contact with It. (In this version, as with the book, he actually knows his brother is dead.) He skims through a book of photos, when all of a sudden Georgie's most recent picture winks at him and starts oozing blood. What's worse is that Bill's parents are more concerned about him not belonging in the room than finding out what he saw—or more importantly, what they can't see. It's nightmarish enough not to be believed or heard by your parents, but when they're smearing invisible blood all over your murdered brother's room...shudder.

Pennywise's page-bouncing also comes into play later when the Losers are looking at Mike's dad's photo album about Derry's many child-murder sprees, and the town square's carnival comes to life with a certain dancing clown at the center. If the slow burn of him coming into closer, full-color view isn't scary enough, the fact that he then reaches through the page to grab at the Losers while using Henry Bowers' typical refrain ("I'll kill you all!") should keep you up at night.

Ben's father

The new version of It makes very little of Ben Hanscom's background, but the miniseries introduces a gnawing element of the story that still works as a hair-raiser. Early on, Ben is seen traipsing through the Barrens alone—he is new in town, after all—and sees his long-lost father in military dress, standing in the swamp and beckoning him into the sewer.

The 2017 movie offers its own share of Pennywise's dread-inducing impressions (poor fake Georgie), but the idea that Ben's dead dad would slowly morph into the clown like that betrays a monstrous sophistication and cruelty that's hard to forget.

Beverly's bathroom

The 2017 movie does a good job of incorporating everything Beverly Marsh's bathroom scene is supposed to mean—it couldn't be any clearer that her physical maturation is stoking fear in Beverly, and others in her life. But there's still something extraordinarily unsettling about the 1990 version.

It's slower, there are children's voices crying out to Beverly for help, and once the balloon of blood explodes all over the place, Mr. Marsh puts his hands right into the gory mess just like Bill's did, unaware or unwilling to see what his kid sees. Not only that, but the blood also comes back after the first time Beverly cleans it, and she's not even sure that it's real until the other Losers confirm it. A test of her squeamishness and sanity? Shiver.

Eddie's shower

There's no denying that Eddie Kaspbrak's first encounter with It in the 2017 version is creepy. But there's a certain emotional vulnerability that's lost in translation from the first. In the 1990 version, Eddie is being pinballed by the adults in his life—his mother has told him not to shower at school, but his gym teacher absolutely insists he does.

Everyone else has already cleaned up by the time Coach wins the argument, which leaves Eddie out to dry solo in the school showers, just as they start to animate. Mid-rinse, all the nozzles start operating themselves and turn every spout into a scalding torture device meant to steer Eddie away from safety just before Pennywise pays him a visit through the drain. The only thing that makes this less scary is the fact that It inexplicably doesn't actually bother to hurt Eddie, despite having him cornered. If Psycho and Carrie didn't make you think twice about showering away from home, here's another scene that'll creep into your memory at the worst moment.

When bullies attack

The new Henry Bowers is a mean dude, no doubt about it; and unlike the miniseries version, he actually makes his mark on Ben's belly in 2017. But there's something more consistently haunting about Henry in the 1990 film that really resonates with King's book as well.

As in both films, Henry and his cronies go on a tear against Mike Hanlon and have a supreme rock fight with the Losers that undermines Henry's status as the tough guy. But in the first version, he's also shown putting his hands on Beverly Marsh in a potentially sexual way, as her neighbor looks on and a refuses to intervene. He also convinces his whole crew to follow the Losers into the standpipe and simply sits back and watches as Belch Huggins is sucked away and eaten. Savage.

The meta element

There's no doubt that the 2017 Losers Club members know their pop culture, as evidenced by all the New Kids on the Block puns and whatnot. But one of the essential elements of the first movie is how intrinsically informative the zeitgeist was to their fears. For example, within days of the group seeing I Was a Teenage Werewolf at the Paramount theater, the group's most entertainment-oriented member, Richie Tozier, is chased through the school's basement by a werewolf in a varsity jacket.

Even he knows it's too ridiculous to be a coincidence, but while the scene could use a VFX spruce—or at least a mask that moves—it still speaks to the bifurcation of Stephen King's story as derivative of so many other scares and the story that'll inform others' nightmares ... slowly, but surely.

Bill's stutter

In the new It movie, Bill's stutter still affects his ability to communicate with others, but it isn't quite as debilitating as it was in the 1990 miniseries. While treating his stammering as a footnote to the character may have made room for other emotional ramifications of the Losers' lives (and avoided caricaturing a real disorder many people face), it did dial down the nightmarish element of that affliction.

In the miniseries, Bill is often shown stumbling over his words during crucial moments, like telling the others what he saw or explaining to his folks why Georgie's photo freaked him out so badly. It reflected a common dilemma kids tend to have: not being listened to by adults, even when they have something important to say. And who hasn't had that nightmare where the monsters are coming and speech paralysis sets in? In other words, Bill's stutter was scary for reasons wholly outside of his inability to say "he thrusts his fists against the post."

Going clear

The kids' final stand against Pennywise in 2017 is incredibly similar to what goes down in its predecessor (both ignore the novel's Ritual of Chüd in favor of a more old-fashioned fight with It). But despite all the faults to be found in the camerawork, props, and visual effects, the 1990 version is still highly effective, thanks to some key fog machine work and the attack on poor Stan.

While the Losers are trying to stay together, Pennywise already sees the weakest links in their literal chain and tries to make a meal out of Stanley Uris. It's a terrible preview of what's to come, but an effective one nonetheless—the fact that Pennywise is able to break their Losers chain to get to one of them makes them all vulnerable and undermines their strength in numbers.

The death of Laurie Anne Winterbarger

The kids' side of It is only half the story in the 1990 miniseries. The first version is also interspersed with the adults' return to Derry to finish their battle, which will become the focus of It: Chapter Two. While a lot of the scariest scenes are reserved for the kids, even in the early adaptation, there are some frightening moments on the grown-up side that should be on anyone's sequel wishlist.

One such moment is the death of Laurie Anne Winterbarger, a tiny little tot who rides her tricycle home and hangs out in her yard while her mother totes a quick load of laundry inside from the line. When she sees Pennywise lurking behind some sheets, she thinks it's an innocent game of peek-a-boo at first ... after all, he is a clown. But then those teeth come out, and things turn grim very quickly. Her mother returns to find her trike overturned, and, while we don't see the girl's body, we're left to imagine the horror of the sight based strictly on her mother's blood-curdling scream. Like Georgie before her, Laurie Anne's fate serves as a terrible reminder of the cruelty of this monster, who basically likes to play with his food—and still prefers to dine on children 27 years after being roughed up by the Losers.

Stan's bathtime

As in the book, the 1990 miniseries shows that Stan Uris doesn't take the news of his callback to Derry very well. Instead of packing some clothes and making trip arrangements, Stan proceeds to take a bath. Two minutes before the call, he's shown as a happy husband whose wife is eager to make lots of little Uris babies, but after speaking to Mike, he's completely forlorn.

His wife tries to bring him a beer and offer him a backrub, but what she finds upon entering the restroom is that Stan has taken his life with a razor blade and scrawled the word "IT" upon the wall with his own blood. Stan's demise is an absolute must for Chapter Two, and if the filmmakers can present even half of the emotional drainage that the miniseries manages to squeeze into this brief scene, it'll be a sinister success.

The graves

The Losers' return to Derry is filled with miserable moments of It aggressively trying to scare them back to their various corners of the country, and Bill's outdoor brush with Pennywise is especially terrible. After years of suppressing the memory of his little brother's death, Bill's first order of business upon returning to town is to pay his respects and offer some apologies at Georgie's grave.

However, his grief is very quickly interrupted by fear—because who pops up to greet him but Pennywise himself. The clown is busy digging fresh burial holes and offers Bill his pick of the bunch, save for the one on the end that's "already taken, sorry." Of all the scenes that feature Pennywise playing the maniacal jester, this one is perhaps the most unsettling because it feels more like a promise than a threat.

The old Marsh house

Beverly Marsh as a grown-up is positively a glutton for punishment, so she returns to her childhood home to pay her dear old dad a visit. Although the name Marsh is still listed on the buzzer list at first glance, she's greeted by an elderly woman who informs her that her father passed away half a decade ago.

She decides to join the lady for tea, but the scene quickly turns dreadful. The woman's teeth have suddenly rotted, there's blood in her cup, and the bathroom still offers up that sick surprise in the sink. As Beverly begins to make her way to the door, her host goes full-on Pennywise—and after Beverly escapes, she turns to see the apartment has been vacated and boarded up. That's when a balloon floats by to drive home the reality of what she's just walked back into.

The fortune cookies

For all they've been through, the Losers' reunion meal is pretty jolly. There's some "beep beep Richie"-style jokes, everyone's very touchy-feely with one another, and the group pays some necessary recognition to the fact that Mike has taken one for the team by staying put in Derry to keep a lookout.

The meal is capped off with menace, though, when their fortune cookies turn out to contain more than just generic word salad and lucky numbers. From clawing crab legs to a giant eyeball to a slithering bird fetus, these tiny bits of terror are enough to remind the Losers that they're not here for a rollicking stroll down memory lane—there's a beast to defeat.

The man on the moon

The return of Henry Bowers for Chapter Two is a bit up in the air, since he's shown being thrown down the endless well. If the sequel follows the book and miniseries, however, Henry's comeback to Derry will be a crazy one—as in, he's actually insane. As shown in the miniseries, Henry has been committed to the local mental institution after successfully pleading insanity to charges of all the town's deaths during his childhood. After being put under the spell of the deadlights (and having his hair turn sheet white thanks to the sheer surprise of the sight), it's probably not hard to convince a judge he's lost his marbles.

However, Pennywise has bigger plans for Henry and pays him a visit at the asylum, first by speaking to him as the moon—It is a celestial being, which makes this feat even more impressive and terrifying—and then as his long-lost pal Butch Huggins. Just like in childhood, It is able to command Henry to do its terrible bidding and goes after Mike. Henry might have his own misguided qualms about the Hanlon family, but when he raises that knife it's Pennywise who's controlling the show. The fact that It has the power to turn other people into rage monsters, in addition to impersonating anyone and slithering through pipes to pop up anywhere, makes the task of taking him down that much more daunting and necessary.