Yes, maybe you've swallowed a spider in your sleep before.

But contrary to the myth that the average human swallows eight spiders a year while they're sleeping, it's highly unlikely to happen more than once in your lifetime. Still, something about life in America encourages a fear of spiders, as 30.5% of Arachnophobiacs live in the United States. In fact, Google Trends reveal that fear of spiders is one of the most prevalent in the country. Clinical psychologist Sophie Li posits that that specific phobia could be social run-off from media depictions: As "a social or cultural component...spiders are often depicted and promoted as being scary and deadly." She adds, "Another theory is that, through evolutionary processes, we've been genetically predisposed to develop fears and phobias of things that threatened the safety of early humans, things like spiders and snakes."

Realistically, based on Americans' most common fears in 2019, it's probably a combination of both. A phobia is defined as "a type of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to experience extreme, irrational fear about a situation, living creature, place, or object." Phobias have unclear causes, but it's usually the result of traumatic events and/or a manifestation of a pre-existing anxiety disorder. As such, you're unlikely to develop a phobia past the age of 30. Of course, phobias are different from our every day fears (they are an official, diagnosed mental disorder, after all), but their roots lie in the same black depths of our brains where we process the world and our anxieties about it.

Chapman University

According to surveys of Americans' specific fears, the most popular (and growing) fears are of corrupt government officials, pollution, and economic instability. Meanwhile, our universal fears remain pretty constant: aging (gerascophobia), public speaking (or glossophobia), death (thanatophobia), being eaten by a wild boar (agrizoophobia)...the usual. Horror movies have mastered the science of tapping into our fears and anxieties, from natural disasters to killer v*ginas (v*gina dentata).

Welcome to our tour through humanity's most common fears with these celebrated and not-so-celebrated and sometimes downright cringey horror films.


First stop: Pediophobia, a.k.a. fear of dolls. Pediophobia is relatively common and classified as a type of automatonophobia, or fear of humanoid figures. Think uncanny valley plus evil spirits. Clinical psychologist Kate Wolitzky-Taylor, PhD, says we're strangely conditioned to fear dolls from pop culture and experience. "This consistent pairing of dolls with other creepy, scary stimuli may lead to experiencing fear or nervousness when confronted with a doll or an image of a doll," she says. "Learning is a big factor, whether it's direct learning experiences, or vicarious learning through others."

Bottom line: No adult genuinely f*cking likes dolls. Annabelle is a Bratz doll raised by wolves. Haunted wolves. Buy your DVD copy today!

In Andy Muschietti's new film, IT: Chapter Two, audiences are reintroduced to the band of nerdy, endearing children they met two years ago in the 2017 installment of IT.

Now, Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), and Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) are all grown up—encumbered with old tensions, unresolved childhood trauma, and new secondary sex characteristics—and they're back in Derry, Maine to face Pennywise the dancing clown for the second and final time.

Before we go any further into the cinematic universe, it's important we get one thing out of the way. Now that both movies have come out and the onscreen saga of Pennywise is complete, one thing is abundantly clear: Andy Muschietti's films do not do the book justice. I know, I know, that's an inexcusably insufferable thing to say when asked about a movie. But if there's one thing you can count on every horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing, millennial journalist to spout as readily as climate change facts from a half-read The New Yorker article, it's the phrase, "The book was better." In this instance, I humbly count myself among them (my glasses are more of a Cynical Harry Potter shape, though) and ask you to trust me that it's a relevant observation.

In Stephen King's 1986 novel, IT, the group of children portrayed are so vividly real—in all of their terror and joy on the brink of puberty—that adult readers are forced to remember their own childhoods through an uncomfortably accurate lens, rather than the sunshiney, carefree one our culture falsely assigns in retrospect. King reminds us that childhood is, above all else, fraught with intensity of experience, both good and bad (scary clown or not). King brilliantly weaves together the parallel stories of the Loser's Club as children and adults, switching between the two narratives from chapter to chapter, subtly showing that childhood fears never really die and that life is often a series of patterns repeating themselves. Contrary to popular belief, IT isn't really a book about a murderous clown; it's a book about the horrors and complications of growing up.

Unfortunately, for all the ways Andy Muschietti's 2017 film is at least a semi-worthy tribute to these aspects of King's book, IT: Chapter Two is not. It's possible that the second installment was always set up to fail because—while the childhood portion of the book managed to stand alone in film—the story of the Loser's Club as adults is simply inextricable from the parallel story of their disrupted youth. Without the side-by-side view of their shared childhood, the story falls flat.

The Losers Club

Perhaps most strikingly, IT: Chapter Two manages to feel longer than the 1,100 page book. A nearly three-hour run-time for any movie is self-important, but a three-hour run-time for a horror movie is just exhausting. Sure, they had a lot of ground to cover, but they managed to pack about a half hour's worth of story into three badly-paced hours. There were plenty of funny and sentimental moments as the adults revisited their childhood haunts and dynamics, and it was an excellent choice to insert the child actors from the first film in gripping memory sequences, but the first movie seemed to do most of the work for the second.

Let's answer one of the first questions you ask a friend who's just seen a horror movie: "Was it scary?" In this case, the answer is complicated. Admittedly, the images that Muschietti and his team pulled from King's imagination were often inventive and first. But, perhaps because of the length of the film or because it lacked the guidance of someone experienced in crafting horror, each monster was left onscreen too long. Soon, familiarity took the edge off each grotesque spectacle, and eventually subsumed it all together until the monsters felt downright silly, something King never allows to happen in the mind's eye of his reader and something that should never be allowed to happen on screen.

Pennywise the Clown

This is a particularly blatant problem at the end of the movie, when the Loser's Club fight Pennywise (in all his various forms) in a lengthy, eventually tiresome battle sequence. Before the movie premiered, many diehard King fans doubted that the mysticism and nuance of the book's ending could be translated effectively onto screen, and they were right. While no one can blame the screenwriters for excluding the group sex scene between the children (yes, that really is in the book), the story's end is decidedly oversimplified and drawn out.

In the book, the theme of good vs. evil comes to a head when the Losers venture into the alternate dimension Pennywise is from and speak to his antithesis, a "turtle" who embodies the forces of good both within the children and in the world at large. It's a powerful, complicated ending worthy of the saga that precedes it. Unfortunately, Muschietti managed to turn it into a limp, anti-bullying PSA. In the film, the Losers shout at Pennywise, verbally belittling him and causing him to physically shrink until they easily rip out his heart, leaving the audience with questions like, "That's it? Why didn't they do that before?" and "So...Pennywise was just the Losers' insecurities…?" and "I paid $17 dollars for this?" It's a cheesy cop-out clearly designed by a movie-maker who's scared to delve into the ambiguities and complications of King's original ending.

Still, not all differences between the book and the movie are bad. In King's novel, a romantic connection between Eddie and Richie is only vaguely implied. In the film, Muschietti solidified the implication, showing Richie (Bill Hader) carving "R+E" into a bridge after Eddie's death. In fact, Hader offers many of the movie's best moments, giving the film's most fully-realized performance. Unfortunately, his cheeky one-liners often fall flat thanks to a cast that struggles to capture the same juxtaposition between lightheartedness and terror that the child actors in the first movie nailed.

In the end, perhaps it's unfair to blame Muschietti or the cast for Chapter Two's failure. Maybe there are just some books that don't translate to film, and maybe that's okay. God knows that won't stop studios from continuing to try, and it will continue to give insufferable nerds like me the opportunity to say, "The book was better" every chance we get.


Which Pennywise Is Scarier: The "It" Clown from 1990 or 2019?

Whose version of Pennywise is scarier, Tim Curry or Bill Skarsgård?

Tim Curry as Pennywise in 1990's It and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise in 2017's It

Clowns are notoriously frightening, but Pennywise the Dancing Clown is in another stratosphere of terror.

Ever since his debut in Stephen King's 1886 horror novel, It, Pennywise changed the way we perceive clowns. Instead of being unsettling but harmless characters seen at the circus, thanks to Pennywise clowns are now often perceived as possible bloodthirsty killers. Not only did Pennywise wreak havoc and feed on the fictional residents of Derry, Maine, he's also responsible for millions of people's nightmares in the real world.

Pennywise may have made his debut in a novel, but the clown didn't reach cult status until Tim Curry portrayed him in the 1990 television adaption of It. Curry's terrifying performance brought the monster to life and horrified people across the nation.

Now, Pennywise has been given a second life thanks to Bill Skarsgård's portrayal in both 2017's It and 2019's It: Chapter Two. Skarsgård gave Pennywise a facelift with a new voice, new smile, and better special effects. Skarsgård's performance was one of the principal reasons why It became the highest-grossing domestic horror film of all time.

Both versions of Pennywise are iconic, but the question remains: Which clown is scarier?


Tim Curry and Bill Skarsg\u00e5rd as Pennywise. Tim Curry as Pennywise and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise.

Can someone get Curry some eye drops? Pennywise may be a violent clown, but that doesn't mean he has to ignore severe eye redness. Skarsgård's blue eyes are warm and appealing, which is somehow more chilling, given what we know will happen in the film. This is one of the few times where baby blue eyes send a chill down the spine.

Winner: Skarsgård


Tim Curry and Bill Skarsg\u00e5rd as Pennywise. Tim Curry as Pennywise and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise.

Dental hygiene was clearly not a priority to either version of Pennywise. Although Curry's teeth are clearly strong and jagged enough to tear human flesh, his smile appears to have the same amount of teeth as a human. With some good toothpaste and dental floss, Curry might be able to turn his hygiene around. In contrast, Skarsgård must have killed an alligator and stole its teeth, because he has multiple fangs coming out of each gum. Getting braces might be an issue, but more fangs put Skarsgård over the edge in this category.

Winner: Skarsgård


Tim Curry and Bill Skarsg\u00e5rd as Pennywise. Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgård creepy smile in their versions of It.

The creepiest trait of a clown is its smile. Skarsgård's smile is mischievous and murderous. Pennywise's dark intentions are apparent. However, Curry's smile is friendlier and less menacing. Curry's smile suggests a circus clown, which makes him that much scarier, because people would be more inclined to interact with Curry over Skarsgård. But you're in for a rude awakening when Curry's smile turns into a death stare.

Winner: Curry

Dancing Ability



Curry elects to laugh and point. Skarsgård showcased a dance that inspired an SNL skit. Skarsgård wins by a landslide.

Winner: Skarsgård


Stephen King's IT (1990) - Georgie

IT (2017) - Opening Georgie's Death Scenes (1080p)

The most important scene in both versions of It is the opening scene wherein Georgie meets Pennywise. Both scenes establish Pennywise as an approachable but manipulative clown who has an aggressive side that can lead to outbursts and, eventually, murder. It's also during the first scene that the audience hears Pennywise for the first time. Skarsgård's voice is a slow, fervent whisper that changes pitch at a whim. Skarsgård said the voice "needed to be able to sell the unpredictability of Pennywise" in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

Curry's voice sounds like Pennywise smoked a pack of cigarettes every day for 30 years. It's less complex than Skarsgård's voice but just as effective in eliciting panic. It's a mystery why Georgie didn't run away as soon as Curry said, "Hi." Skarsgård's voice may be creepier, but Curry's voice scares the audience from the start.

Winner: Curry

In the end, Skarsgård barely defeats Curry as the scarier version of Pennywise. Regardless, if you see any version of Pennywise, run away and don't look back.

It: Chapter Two opens in theaters on September 6, 2019.

Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) lures another child into the dark.

Brooke Palmer/ Warner Bros. Entertainment

In It: Chapter One, "The Losers Club," a group of outcast children banded together to defeat It, an evil force that plagues their town of Derry, Maine every 27 years.

In It: Chapter Two, the kids are grown up and It wants a rematch.

Taking the form of an evil clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), It has been training to scare the Losers even harder. They're back in Derry and at a disadvantage, having forgotten most of their childhoods. But Skarsgard reveals that Pennywise may secretly hope the Losers kill him for good and end this cycle.

"We talked a lot about [whether] there's this urge that maybe Pennywise really, really wants to be defeated finally and forever," Skarsgard said at a press conference. "So what made it more interesting to me is he's angry, he wants revenge but there might be sort of, if you could imagine such a thing as a subconscious of Pennywise that is maybe wanting to be destroyed."

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in It: Chapter Two In a house of mirrors you see Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) double!Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Andy Muschietti, director of both It: Chapter One and It: Chapter Two agreed.

"You definitely were drawn to the idea that he finally wants to be killed," Muschietti said. "I think it connects to the idea we discussed for the first movie that this is a character that is fighting to survive, strangely because it's a character that lives in the imagination of children. So to keep on living, he has to keep on killing. As long as he keeps killing, he will be alive."

Andy Muschietti (Right) directs the original Losers ClubBrooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Stephen King may agree with Skarsgard too. The Pennywise actor picked up prose from King's original tome that led him to this theory.

"Pennywise seems like he's afraid of the kids in the book a little bit," Skarsgard said. "His biggest fear is them coming back and defeating him or challenging him again. Like [Muschietti] said, he just wants to be left alone and be a beast of habit kind of a thing. What if he wants them back? If he wants them back, and he's enjoying it, and he's playing a mind game on all of the losers, and it's revenge and maybe some masochistic side of it?"

Back to do battle with It once again is a new cast of A-list movie stars portraying the kids grown-up versions of the from It: Chapter One.

Jessica Chastain plays Beverly, portrayed as a teenager by Sophia Lillis in the first film. As soon as viewers saw Lillis as Beverly, they suggested Chastain to play her as an adult. Muschietti, who directed Chastain in Mama, was ahead of them. Lillis was excited for Chapter Two to cast Chastain, too.

It: Chapter Two Jessica Chastain, Isaiah Mustafa and Jay Ryan face It againBrooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Entertainment

"When I first heard she was going to play me, I guess I felt relieved," Lillis said. "I thought she was perfect for the role so having her actually accept the role, I was very relieved about that. I kind of expected her to do really well."

Fans of King's novel are waiting to see Chastain in the book's infamous blood bath scene.

"I had said to Andy and [producer] Barbara [Muschietti] before we did it, I said, 'I'm happy to do it,'" Chastain said. "'The only thing that would make me super happy at the end is when I'm finished and you guys call wrap, I want you guys in white T-shirts. And I'm going to give you guys a bear hug and we're going to take a photo of it.' And it was amazing, actually. Because Andy complained so much just from having the slime on him for a little bit."

More grueling than the blood bath, Chastain faced continuity for every scene that followed.

"I didn't understand, because I thought that the blood would magically disappear because it's in her imagination," Chastain said. "So I just imagined when the scene was over, she'd be back to being normal Beverly. But Andy, because he loves to torture me, dressed me in blood for the whole end of the film."

Muschietti instructed all the young actors to write letters to their adult counterparts. Most took it seriously, but Finn Wolfhard remained in character as class clown Richie.

"His letter was very Richie," Hader said. "It was like, 'This is dumb. I'm being made to do this.'"

As an adult, Richie becomes a tad more emotional, although he never loses his sense of comic relief.

"I had to do that scene where I had to cry in the water, and it was freezing cold," Hader said. "Andy Muschietti was on a God mic and he was going, "Now Bill, I need you to cry, and then I need you to splash each other, and then I need you to go back to childhood. And then Bill, I need you to realize you cannot go back to childhood. And then I need you to cry like you've never cried.' Okay, so cry, play grab-ass in the water, cry harder. Got it."

It: Chapter Two The Losers Club returns to DerryBrooke Palmer/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Despite their victory in the summer of 1989, many of the Losers revert to their childhood selves as soon as they return to Derry. Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) stood up to his mother as a child, but grown-up Eddie (James Ransone) returns to his passive ways.

"You see at the end of It One, I kind of transition out of the submissive Eddie thing," Grazer said. "I say to my mom, 'I know my life has been a lie.' Then I tell myself, remind myself don't go back to that place. Stand your ground, have some power. It's kind of sad that I wrote that and then he reverts back to being pathetic."

As adults, the Losers are still just as susceptible to Pennywise's tricks. Skarsgard believes Pennywise never sees the Losers as adults anyway. They're still the same kids to him.

"I don't think he perceives age the same way as we do," Skarsgard said. "Watching the movie as well, I think the adult losers are so well casted, you really feel that these are the same people that you're watching. Of course, they are stuck in their childhood traumas. They have to overcome that in order to defeat Pennywise."

It: Chapter Two is in theaters Friday, September 6.

Screen Geek

A freakishly limber old lady offers Jessica Chastain tea in the first trailer for It Chapter Two.

It only gets worse from there. The sequel to the 2017 hit features Chastain as Beverley, who returns to Derry 27 years after the events of the original, based on Stephen King's iconic horror novel. Beverley visits her old apartment and is greeted by the elderly woman who now resides there. The least ominous part of their exchange is the cheerful woman's disturbing remark, "You know what they say about Derry: No one who dies here ever really dies!"

Director Andy Mushcietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman pick up the story where it left off, as Beverley is joined by Bill (James McAvoy), Ben (Jay Ryan), Richi (Bill Hader), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), Eddie (James Ransone), and Stan (Andy Bean) as they reconcile with what terrorized them as children in 1989. Bill Skarsgård also returns as Pennywise, the Dancing Clown.

It Chapter Two hits theaters on Sept. 6, 2019. Don't drink any tea until then.

IT CHAPTER TWO - Official Teaser Trailer [HD]

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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