Any child of the 80’s or 90’s will no doubt have a memory of watching the 1990 mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, IT. It’s also likely that you’ve suppressed that memory and all the many week’s worth of nightmares that went with it… not to mention the fearsof clowns that you’ve never quite understood or begun to get over. IT is one of those films which is instantly recognisable for the role of Tim Curry, who stars as Pennywise, the killer clown. Indeed, most of the people I meet in later life will recount their own childhood terror at remembering the scene where Pennywise, hiding in the drain with little Timmy’s paper boat in his hand, turns nasty and ends up tearing the boys arm off. ‘We all float down here … and when you’re down here, you’ll float too’.
Truly, the stuff nightmares are made of…
(The Lucky Seven/ The Losers Club (not all pictured obviously), having the best summer of their lives).
I’ve intentionally pushed Pennywise far from my memory because the first time I saw this film it was so distressing I didn’t know what to do with myself. However, last week I stumbled across a news story about the remake that is planned for 2017 (starring none other than our new crush, Bill Skarsgård – told you he’d be taking over in no time at all ) which made me curious to revisit the original. I had a vague recollection of the ending being a bit of a disappointment, but that has also been eclipsed by that scene with Beverly in the bathroom, with the blood all over her; blood that her alcoholic, abusive father seems blind to. *horrific* Reading about the planned re-make made me a bit defensive over the original and thus, I knew that much like the Loser’s Club, I too had to go back to Derry and face my fears. Surprisingly, I got a lot out of it.
(The whole gang – bonding in their mutual terror)
Considering the scope of the story – it can only be described as epic really – I think the writers of the mini-series did a decent job of getting it into television format. My one criticism is probably that the film isn’t long enough and would have benefited from a third instalment (how often can we say that and mean it?). This would have allowed the writers to touch a bit more on the story of the main cast as both kids and as adults, because there are times throughout when it does feel a bit rushed. A prime example would be the lack of development around why, as their adult selves, none of the Lucky Seven can really remember their experiences as children. This concept pops up here and there throughout the mini-series, but it’s never fully explained and doesn’t take on the same level of importance as it does in the novel.
Additionally, the final confrontation between the adult Lucky Seven (who are by this time reduced to five) seems to be all too brief. So much build up and not much bang, as it were. In a similar vein, the sub-plot with Bill’s wife, Audra, seems a bit pointless due to the fact that it is so underdeveloped. Are they happily married? Is she having an affair? Did she have an affair? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.
I don’t know about this decision. I mean, he too pretty and *gulp* too young. Sorry handsome, baby Skarsgård, you is too, too beautiful to be Pennywise.
Despite these plot issues and some poorly aging special effects, I do think the 1990 version of IT holds up pretty well. Certainly I enjoyed it on a very different level watching it as an adult than I did when I was younger and, to be honest, I found that the 3 hour run time really flew by because I was so caught up in the story. I am sure I’m not alone in thinking that Stephen King films, much like his books, can be hit and miss adventures. When they’re good (Misery, Pet Semetary, The Shining, Christine, Carrie) they’re very good but when they’re bad (Tommy-knockers, Langoliers, The Stand) they’re bloody awful. Happily, this one fell (for me) clearly on the side of ‘very-good’.
Although the casting involves some familiar faces, John Ritter and a very young Seth Green are two examples, there’s no one that is so famous that they eclipse the rest of the ensemble and that is really beneficial to the viewer. Tim Curry is barely recognisable as the clown and so he too, is able to deliver a terrifying performance which is not obstructed by his very recognisable face. Rather than seeing the celebrity, you’re actually seeing the characters and in a film of this length that is essential to the success.
(Vale – Jonathan Brandis)
When I watch this now though, it is with a sadness, because Jonathan Brandis stars as young Bill. Although I was never one of those rabid Seaquest DSV fans, I was a Brandis fan (Side-Kicks, guys and don’t even get me started on Ladybugs – GENIUS); and was very very sad to hear that he killed himself in 2003 at the age of 27. He was such a talent and it was such waste.
It’s moments like this that are responsible for Coulrophobia…
Before IT became a mini-series it was of course, a novel. At well over 1,250 pages, quite a novel it is too. I believe the book jacket even describes it as epic – as if the sheer weight of it isn’t enough of a tip-off. It’s been a decade since I read the book, but I do remember it scaring me perhaps more than any other Stephen King novel has managed to do (close second to Pet Semetary) and despite the length, I managed to knock it over relatively quickly – which is always the marker of a good novel. If you’re going to invest in the mini-series (and I hope you do), I would also heartily recommend having a go at the book. I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly it pulls you in and (arguably) it gives the film a bit more context.
Obviously, you’re not going to spend your Friday night reading – but I do hope you’ll go home and give this a re-watch. It costs about $7.99 to buy on iTunes, which is a good investment in my opinion.
Ultimately, I don’t know what’s going to happen with the re-make of IT or if I will even like it (look, The Shining remake was pretty average in my opinion) but I am going to try and retain some hope and optimism that young Skarsgård can ruin the dreams of a whole new generation of youngsters. Until that happens in 2017 and 2018 respectively, we’ll just have to hang our bad dreams on the original…