The Real Adults:
Children and the Power of Friendship
Take any horror film, look at the list of main characters, and ask yourself the question: ‘are they all adults?’. If the answer is ‘yes’ then there are a few guarantees you can readily assume before watching. One, they will make a terrible decision at some point (or maybe more). Two, they are most likely not going to survive the full film, or at least not make it out in out piece. And three, if they have children, they’ll be in one of two parenting categories, overbearing or oblivious. When it comes to children in horror films when they are deemed the target of the evil, they do have much more of a chance of survival: not only do the children use their brains, their instinct is much stronger. In this way in some films you can see the children take on the responsibilities of the adults, and do more than what the adults could do: both survive, and manage to save others too. The 1990 film adaption of Stephen King’s novel It (1986) is one such example where the children become responsible for the fate of their town, and not only do they defeat the monster, but they survive.
It (1990) is also an example of how adults can not only be oblivious to what their children are doing, but also the reason that their children are the targets of the evil in the story. The adults in the film – other than the future selves of the ‘Losers Club’ – are a collection of abusive, overbearing, or absentee parents who continue to turn a blind eye to both the growing number of missing children, as well as doing very little to stop the children doing what they want. This difference in character adds to the already eerie mood of the town, which is elevated by the deaths of many of the town’s children. Just as much as you can’t trust Pennywise, you begin to feel like you can’t trust the adults either. So those that you are meant to be able to trust, and to rely on aren’t what you think, and so the outcast children of the town are brought into the spotlight. In this case, it is the negligence of the parents which leads to the already alienated children becoming Pennywise’s targets. To punish the parents, Pennywise takes the children, but this backfires and it is this group of children who fight back.
The seven children who make up the ‘Losers Club’, and the main characters of the film are a group who not only take action against Pennywise, but also kill it. The control and power which is meant to lie with the adults gets transferred over to a group of children, and they not only take on this power, they utilise it. At the end of the first fight with Pennywise, the children are only able to defeat it as a group. Not only do they do this together, this scene brings them together in a circle. Within this circle the children depend on and look out for each other, thus generating enough power to eventually kill Pennywise. This shows just how much stronger they are together rather than apart. Like the circle of friends, the story also comes to a well rounded close as they defeat the evil before them.
It (1990) presents a group of children who take on the responsibility of the adults to protect both themselves and the other children in the town. It is this though which seals their fate as they are forever stuck in the mindset of their past selves, and so have never really left Derry. In this way, they are yet again the only ones, and now, the only adults who can really do anything about Pennywise. Those who left managed to move on just like the other adults in the town, but all it takes is for one phone call for everything to come flooding back. Who they were as children when they defeated Pennywise is still there, and so as adults, they have the ability to do what others can’t. They can defeat It again.
The members of the ‘Losers Club’ are given the power and responsibilities of adults in their status as outcasts, and they utilise it against their common enemy. They do this not only as children, but for a second time, as adults. Thus, in the film It (1990), the adults of Derry aren’t the real adults, the ‘Losers Club’ are.