Skip to main content

Why IT Needed To Be Rated R, According To The Director

IT Pennywise evil smile

From the moment IT was announced as being adapted into a new feature film adaptation, there was one fear that loomed over every horror fan's head: the dreaded PG-13 rating. Thankfully, after some deliberation with the folks at New Line, director Andy Muschetti was able to land himself an R-rating for his first part of the (likely) two-part Stephen King adaptation. And after reading his detailed argument for why he fought so hard for that prospect, we can't help but agree, as Muschetti recalled the following:

From our very first discussion with the people from New Line, it was understood that the movie was gonna be rated R. Of course it was already crazy that they started a story revolving around the death of children. But if you aimed for a PG-13 movie, you had nothing at the end. So we were very lucky that the producers didn't try to stop us. In fact, it's more our own moral compass that sometimes showed us that some things lead us in places where we didn't want to go.

Andy Muschetti's case for an R-rated IT is not only practical, it also sounds like it's an interesting strategy to keep the film as a whole on track. With no major restrictions in the ratings department, the story of Derry's Losers Club can unfold in the way that Muschetti and the creative team behind the film choose to. Not everything is fair game, however. For example, one infamous scene that fans of the novel are familiar with was probably excised from the film, because of the fact that it not only makes things more than awkward for the viewing audience, but also because that sort of a shock more than likely would ruin the tension and fear that the film will have developed throughout.

Of course, a PG-13 version of IT could have worked to a certain extent. Certainly, atmosphere and tension are easy enough to generate in a feature of any classification. But when it comes to Stephen King's particular brand of horror, there's a lot of disturbing aspects, both supernatural and just plain human, that make the universe of his works all the more frightening. Between the gore and the psychological trauma that IT has been known to delve into in its source material, a PG-13 version, no matter how effectively executed, would come off as an extremely neutered affair.

With his remarks to the French magazine Mad Movies (via Bloody-Disgusting), Andy Muschetti has summed up Stephen King's oeuvre in a nutshell. And from the advance word around town, even from the author himself, it sounds like IT is going to be one hell of a King adaptation. How far up the ranks it climbs is for the audience to decide, as IT will attempt to set a record for "most lights left on after a horror film," on September 8th.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.