Warning: discussion about suicide
The lights were already out when my boyfriend and I walked into the theater. I was annoyed because we were late and my depression had been suffocating me all weekend. We made our way to the middle of a row using whispered “excuse mes” to find good seats. I sat down, trying to get comfortable while the woman in front of me reclined her seat back so far that the cold plastic knocked my knees. Given another reason to be mad at the world, I tilted my legs at an angle to avoid any additional bumps during the next three hours.
I’d seen the 1990’s It when I was a senior in high school. My obsession with horror stems from being traumatized as a kid by my father. His movie pick for a night we spent stranded in a seedy hotel room was: The Visitors. Watching horror has since become a fun game of testing my limits. I see it as forcing myself to build a mental tolerance for the disturbing, so if faced with fear I’ll be prepared.
The movie was much more engaging than the original. I have yet to read the book so I can’t speak to the difference in the plot there. What I can say is Stan’s storyline in the 90s film was disheartening and unsatisfying. While in this version his ending was just as horrible, the film tried to give some sort of reasoning behind his decision to not join his friends in Derry.
Once Stan hears of Pennywise’s return he’s the only one of “The Losers” who doesn’t fulfill his promise to come back. In the 90s version, he writes “It,” in blood on the bathroom wall, cementing his reasoning for suicide — and, making me theorize maybe It possessed him to do the act? In this year’s version, it’s revealed that Stan wrote his friends letters, providing a full explanation for taking himself out of the game.
Stan confesses he knows he’s not mentally stable enough to go back to Derry and face Pennywise again. And he knows his absence would mean inevitable doom for The Losers. Without the seven of them together, Pennywise would win. Stan decides to kill himself, thus breaking their entangled fates.
As someone who has been suicidal in the past, and still deals with suicidal thoughts currently, my emotions about this adjustment to the story was mixed. My throat tightened when it was revealed the Stan wasn’t just some scared kid who turned into a scared adult. An act his friends and audience saw as cowardice turned out to be the reason behind their success. Without Stan being honest with himself and friends, they wouldn’t have stood a chance. This small change makes a huge impact on the narrative. It’s a change that is as harmful as it is compelling.
When I was ready to kill myself one of the things that comforted me was the idea that I was making life easier for those around me. After I was gone and buried no one would have to check on me to see if my depression was once again dragging me down. My boyfriend wouldn’t have to deal with my mood swings. My family wouldn’t have to worry about me struggling to get through work while having anxiety attacks. I could leave whatever money I did have to them to help fund a happier life. A life that would be brighter once I took my clouds with me.
That’s the message Stan’s death sends. He’s noble for giving up because he could see that his fear not only got in his own way but his friend’s chance at a better life. It’s unfortunate, but terms of the story, it’s true.
On my good mental health days, I know my death wouldn’t make the people around me better off. The darkness I carry would linger. But, Stan’s death did bring hope. His death brought the possibility of a happier future. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with how his decision worked. Stan’s choice tells the audience that this sacrifice was worth it because the monster is dead…
We left the movie as soon as the credits began to roll. Stuck in the traffic of exiting viewers, I nodded my head when my boyfriend asked if I enjoyed myself. It was good. It was troubling. And it was sad. I’m not sure what responsibility films hold in terms of the messages they spread. I’m not sure how this message will be received to those who are currently struggling with thoughts of suicide. I know for me, it was hard to watch. But, also, unfortunately, realistic in its portrayal of how some of us decide to escape from pain.
If you’re currently struggling, please, reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255