When I spoke with Bill Hader ahead of the premiere of It: Chapter Two, the conversation eventually turned to his favorite horror films because he’s a known cinephile and I like to abuse my job to get movie recommendations from famous people. I expected him to name check some classics and maybe an obscure nugget or two (which he did), but I didn’t anticipate the revelation that he had snuck a slight nod to one of those classics, John Carpenter’s The Thing, into It: Chapter Two. Mainly because I completely missed the reference when I saw the film. Regardless of if you saw it or also whiffed, what follows is a cool little behind-the-scenes story that we held until after people had a chance to see the movie. So, spoiler alert if you haven’t.
The sight of Richard Masur’s severed head in a fridge chilling next to the Cool Whip and soda cans in the It miniseries scarred a lot of ’90s kids but Andy Muschietti clearly saw an opportunity to double down in his film, launching Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) out of the fridge by way of spidery tentacles before nearly face-hugging Hader’s Richie Tozier to death. It’s not all about the shock effect or gore of that specific moment, though. Eddie Kaspbrak’s (James Ransone) fear-inspired paralysis and inaction play a part in the film’s final showdown. But it’s still a crazy moment that, apparently, sparked a thought in Hader while on set.
“When he turned into a spider, I said to Andy, ‘Oh, man, this is like The Thing.’ And I said, ‘Oh, let me say what the guy said in that.'”
The line, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding,” delivered by Palmer (David Clennon) after seeing Norris’ (Charles Hallahan) head get torn off and spring spider legs (just before Kurt Russell’s MacReady torches it), is more than a throwaway moment in The Thing. It’s also a great example of the kind of audience surrogacy that Hader talked about in our interview when the subject turned to his character’s penchant for injecting levity into the bonkers moments that are sprinkled throughout It: Chapter Two. Essentially Richie, like Palmer in that scene in The Thing, is saying what we’re thinking.
While it’s not an exact recreation, Hader has drawn inspiration from the classics before. When we spoke about Barry‘s second season finale, Hader linked Fuches’ (Stephen Root) exclamation of, “What are you!?” toward Lilly (the seemingly insurmountable child/ninja/other) in an earlier season 2 episode to a key moment from High Plains Drifter. The one where Geoffrey Lewis shouts, “Who are you!?” at Clint Eastwood.
While these things are fun nods inserted by an actor/writer/director/movie geek of the highest order, Hader is clear that he doesn’t want to be reckless with these kinds of things, saying that he never wants moments like this to feel “too wink-y.” And with It: Chapter Two, it certainly doesn’t. Instead, it feels more organic, due in part to the kind of over-the-top gross-out aesthetic that this version of It shares with The Thing (and other classics like Evil Dead). It’s also the kind of thing that makes obvious sense when you think about it. As Hader says, “come on, The Thing had a head turn into a spider and scuttle off, and we’re doing the same thing. We should at least acknowledge it.”
‘It: Chapter Two’ is playing in theaters everywhere.