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Stephen King’s It (1990)
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace Novel by Stephen King Teleplay by Lawrence D. Cohen & Tommy Lee Wallace
If its one thing I’ve come to accept whenever viewing one of Stephen King’s TV “mini” series, its that finding a comfortable chair is well needed. A sad thought being that a remake is in store and will be released as a two-part movie. Wallace having stated that the fact that this was his first television movie, with the added pressure of being a Stephen King book being why he wanted it as close to perfection as possible. Despite its length and often slow moments Stephen King’s It has remained a great classic in the horror genre. Even if you find yourself unable to sit through the whole film your sure to at least know of Tim Curry’s amazing performance as Pennywise the clown.
Premise: Derry, Maine seems no stranger to tragedy, though occurring only every 30 years. Several children each year either go missing or are found with their bodies mutilated in unexplained accidents. Hitting close to home for recent victim’s brother Bill, (Richard Thomas/Jonathan Brandis) out of a group of friends which includeded Richie, (Harry Anderson/Seth Green) Ben, (John Ritter/Brandon Crane) Eddie, (Dennis Christopher/Adam Faraizl) Beverly, (Annette O’Toole/Emily Perkins) Michael, (Tim Reid/Marlon Taylor) and Stanley (Richard Masur/Ben Heller). The Losers Club or so they called themselves, having defeated the culprit that same summer. Finding that 30 years later he had returned with Michael’s call of “IT” having come back. Having stayed in Derry all his life, the call comes after a photo of Ben’s brother had been found at the latest crime scene. Five of which return home, one unable to put aside emotions he thought long kept in the past; though each given a warning to stay away. It had plans of his own, involving the bully who’d originally taken the blame. Refacing the one thing that bonded them for life and reclaiming the lives of all those children lost.
5. Small touches throughout: Whether a movie is outright with its terror or chooses a more subtle approach, there has to be something to keep your attention and nerves on edge in order to consider it a great choice time and time again. Especially in a film that may be too long to recall every little add-in that creep up with each watch.
One of the first things that come to mind being when young Bill is looking through Georgie’s (Tony Dakota) photo album and then it begins to bleed through and down his picture. Especially as the mother enters clutching the album, hands soaked in blood yet unable to tell whatsoever. I love the sound of how the blood feels in a movie.
Another instance occurring with Beverly and her father in the restroom where again, blood is released but after its popped out of a balloon having gone through the drain.
Having each member instantly taken back to their childhood while receiving the calls from Michael was another. I was always scared of Stanley’s childhood story, I thought it was far worse than the others but the least remembered. Being the logical one of the group, when hearing his name whispered far off from a house, assumes there to be some rational explanation behind it. The whisper itself was creepy enough but after the door slammed and “IT” slowly walked down the stairs with the fog enveloping; just the thought gives me chills. *When capturing Audra, Pennywise also repeats “Dontcha want it,” in such a haunting voice. *Having Pennywise talk to Henry Bowers through the moon. *The recurring saying of “They all float down here.” The villain given plenty of tricks and eerie one-liners up his sleeves that were nicely woven into the script and will be great to see topped, if even possible.
4. The Story: Wallace had stated being more fond of the first half because he felt people couldn’t follow the adults as well as they did the children. Though, I found the fear more prevalent in the second half with the first simply a great beginning that the ending was trying to catch up to. The ending wasn’t said to turn out the way Wallace would have liked which is slightly expected on a 1990 television budget. What they ended up with was okay…but I was slightly disappointed in the ending as well. We don’t see Pennywise in the last final moments, in fact the “big battle” at the end was between them and some mechanical spider. The fact that a bike ride was what brought Audra (Olivia Hussey) back didn’t settle too well with me either. A small town where everyone chooses to simply turn their heads was a great setting however, familiar enough. The fact that it was centered around him only eating children made it more scary in that Pennywise was no more real than the boogeyman or monsters under your bed to the parents. Who in their right mind would believe such nonsense? Even Stanley was unsure of how the events experienced could be explained and what ultimately messes with his character until he dies.
3. “The Loser’s Club”: Referring to both casts that played the roles and how their importance of different personas was what made the kids bond so strong. They don’t seem to provide such solid roots for groups of friends anymore, or when they do, they’re connected by “traveling pants” of some sort. Or through the many social media accounts out in the interwebs.
In case anyone had forgotten, it is mentioned that a curse was to blame for the Loser’s having gained a certain notoriety in their jobs and not so coincidentally enough, how none of them had children. A sign that they were meant to stop “It” once again in their later years.
Reid and Thomas did share an awkward (for me) scene when riding a bike to reminisce but nothing too out of reach for a King script. But Thomas did a great portrayal when time came to be taken back 30 years. His stutter being just as prevalent and shaken up about the whole thing. I didn’t feel that kind of conviction from all of the adults. Richard Masur was only in three scenes; didn’t seem anything like what I’d think Stanley would be once older. The only thing making sense was that his character choose suicide (Spoiler!).
Heller did a better job, but this was his only film. Also preferred the character of Eddie better as a kid. Dennis Christopher did a great job of portraying him although I’d say he did so well, it made me hate where the character ended up in his life. When younger, told of his mother giving him placebos and still never stood up for himself, staying with her til the end.
He ends up sacrificing himself for the group because they were the only people he ever even loved. *single tear*
As far as Richie, well it’s really not fair since I’ve been a fan of Seth Green in most things (if not all) that I’ve seen him in.
But what was up with Beverly being so friendly with all the guys. At their reunion she kisses Ritchie to make her way to Bill as they share a quick moment but ultimately ends up with Ben. “Hey you little floozy..how about you just say hello like a normal person?!” Just a thought Have yet to mention either Ritter or Brandis because it was a tragic loss to lose both actors within a two month period back in ’03 but were both talented men that gave just as ever entertaining roles in this film along with many others.
2. Ability to transform into your worst fear: Slashers, cannibals, ghosts or eerie leprechaun’s running around; all just as scary in their own ways and are sure to do the trick. Children come off as the more susceptible ones to go after but the added notion of being able to transform into their worst fear in a period when it was easier to look the other way made the film all the more scary. Which was the best however? A question that warrants enough thought as they were great in their own ways. I never liked when Ben sees his father by the creek. Though having a childhood friend that would always say “Wanna balloon Ben,” in the exact same voice didn’t help. They wait to show what happens to Stanley but it’s as though Pennywise had been gunning for him a bit more than the others. Down in the sewers, it’s Stanley whose picked up by the clown and pinned up against the wall. You felt the sorriest for Eddie but more so because of how his mother treated him and the lies he was fed. Having to endure hell whether home or with his friends and what happens in the shower only got good when the clown came up from the drain. Acknowledging that it is a TV movie, the werewolf did look pretty awful so what happened to Richie was always on the fence for me. Although, I preferred his incident in the library as an adult instead of Beverly’s incident when she was younger and in the bathroom.
1. Tim Curry: His depiction of Pennywise the Clown was perfection. Perhaps a bold statement for some. But who are we to not expect such from lovely guys and gals that get paid to do just that; entertain. I don’t just throw that word around unless I feel tis truly the case; perfection that is. Yet Curry is known for dressing up and completely embodying his characters, which time (and film) can attest to. This particular film done after Legend which alone was a strenuous role with time consuming make-up, so he preferred they go with a lighter approach on making up the clown. Allowing his personality behind the character to be what drew people in and created the terror from there. The delivery of his lines, the way he toyed with the children and that smile!
All spot on, generally worrying me as it seems we revel in a day were remakes are a dime a dozen. Yes, it’s a steady film that may go into a bit of detail and has effects that all around could look better if done with a bigger budget. But that’s always what I feel separates classics from other films at times. An inability to splurge so making due with what you’re given; the real challenge. However, with a remake you’re also taking away from such a significant character (igniting people to compare/contrast) created within a genre that readily has big shoes to fill. Finding it extremely difficult to believe that the kind of presence Curry had would ever be able to be orchestrated in a different manner seeming more fitting.