Time: 192 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough
Jonathan Brandis as Young Bill Denbrough
John Ritter as Ben Hanscom
Brandon Crane as Young Ben Hanscom
Annette O’Toole as Beverly Marsh
Emily Perkins as Young Beverly Marsh
Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier
Seth Green as Young Richie Tozier
Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak
Adam Faraizl as Young Eddie Kaspbrak
Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon
Marlon Taylor as Young Mike Hanlon
Richard Masur as Stanley Uris
Ben Heller as Young Stanley Uris
Tim Curry as Pennywise
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Based on one of Stephen King’s bestselling novels, this is a story told in flashbacks. In a small town, a group of children are terrorized in their youth by an evil force. Thirty years later, when they learn of a new series of child murders, they return to see if they can’t stop it once and for all. Adults now, with success in diverse careers, they still must come to terms with their pasts and with the evil that stalks their New England home town, and their own fears and nightmares.
With the latest film coming out in a couple weeks, I wanted to check out the ‘iconic’ original movie (which is actually a tv mini series). Having seen some clips and watching some reviews, I had a feeling that I would find this to be an average horror movie which really wouldn’t leave that much of an impact on me. And having finally seen it I can say that it was pretty much what I expected it to be. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good things here, the first half of the mini series is okay, Tim Curry is effortlessly entertaining as Pennywise, the actors who played the kids are good, and the film has some interesting ideas. But it feels really dated, drags at many points, isn’t really effective with many of its scares and the second half is mediocre and is completely anticlimactic. Maybe this movie was impressive for its time, but it doesn’t hold up today.
There are two things I want to mention before going in depth with IT. First of all, I haven’t read the 1000 page Stephen King book of the same name, so I’m not sure how accurate the book is to the movie. Second of all, this tv mini series is made up of two episodes, each of them being 1 hour 30 minutes, making IT a 3 hour long movie. I’ll talk about these two parts separately. The first part isn’t great, it is a little repetitive with its structure, one of the adult main characters in present day gets called about Pennywise returning and then there’s a flashback to when they were a kid, rinse and repeat. Some of the ideas and concepts are interesting and fascinating, but it feels somewhat limited. Maybe because it was a tv mins series in the 90s, it was limited from going all into some really dark and disturbing areas, or maybe it was too early and for whatever reason they weren’t able to do it. There are some aspects that don’t make sense, like Pennywise having no problem killing some kids, yet won’t immediately kill the protagonists whenever he gets the chance. All he does is just gloat and talk about how things float (which at a point is just laughable). I have no idea if these unexplained aspects are explained in the book (I’m guessing it probably is, it being over 1000 pages long), but for whatever reason the mini series didn’t exactly flesh everything out well. Because of some of the interesting ideas, as well as the performances by the actors, the first half is okay.
While the first half was okay, the second half just wasn’t good at all. It’s one melodramatic, boring and disappointing climax to the story. Most of it is just the adult characters catching up on their lives, talking to each other and its hard to care about what’s going on. There are even 2 moments, each lasting at least a minute of these characters just doing something completely random. One involves two people on a bike, the other is just a montage of our protagonists just eating. There was also no tension throughout most of this second half, there was even less tension than in the first part. You never really feel that the protagonists are in danger until near the end of the movie. Pennywise is in the movie a lot less, one of his scenes, the library scenes, is still one of the most entertaining scenes in the entire 3 hour ‘film’. Otherwise I can’t really pinpoint anything I liked about the second part. The reveal at the end was really disappointing. I don’t know if it was exactly like this in the book, but whatever case it didn’t work in the movie. This second half is a step down from the first half of the mini series.
The young actors who play the protagonists in the first half are actually surprisingly good, they have great chemistry with each other and you can really buy them as being friends. They are actually part of the reason that the first half actually works, these actors were so good that I was willing to look pass some of the issues and actually pay attention to what was going on. The adult actors however are very hit or miss, some of them are fine, others really don’t work at all. Also, they didn’t have the chemistry with each other that the kids had in the first half of the mini series. The showstealer of IT is of course Tim Curry as Pennywise, who is one of the best parts of the movie. However, I must point out that it’s not because I find him scary, because really at no point do I ever find him terrifying at all. Yes, Pennywise kills kids and scares some people, but he didn’t leave any impact on me. He’s one of the best parts because of how entertaining he is and how Curry fully embraced the role. There are some moments where he is so over the top goofy that I can’t take him seriously. A good example is a certain scene with him in a library in the second half of the series, just watch that scene and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Pennywise in 1990’s IT works because of how entertaining and over the top he is, sometimes to the point of hilarity. However he just isn’t scary at all.
This film immediately feels dated, from the camera work, to the special effects, to the scares, to the music, to the sound effects, everything feels dated. Some of the sets, particularly in the sewers are nice and work fine but otherwise there’s nothing special. None of the scares work, not even the film’s direction left an impactful scare. I mentioned how there is a reveal that is underwhelming, it was made all the more worse because of how incredibly fake looking the effects were, I won’t give away what it is, but it is so embarrassingly fake looking.
1990’s IT may have been scary back when it was released but it really doesn’t hold up well today. The direction of the film is dated, the story is not always interesting, the second half is a bore and the payoff is disappointing. It’s only effective if you have a phobia of clowns. If you haven’t seen IT, I don’t think it’ll have any sort of impact on you honestly. Yes, Tim Curry is effortlessly entertaining, and there are some cheesy moments, but that’s all. It’s not even a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of watch, its just mostly a chore. As for the newer film adaptation of IT, I have a lot of faith in it, with the modern effects, darker take, a longer runtime, it has to be at least better than whatever this film was trying to be.