Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace [Other horror films: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Fright Night Part 2 (1988), Danger Island (1992), Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)]
I don’t think I can be good judge of this television mini-series. Despite having read the book multiple times, and seeing how tepid of a series this was in comparison, there’s still huge amounts of nostalgia as far as It is concerned, which clouds my better judgment.
My better judgment sees the massive flaws with this adaptation – it’s far too condensed, even in it’s lengthy running time, leaving rather big plot points left out (the house on Neibolt Street, the ritual of Chüd, a clearer picture of both Derry’s history and It’s influence), which isn’t helped by the fact that the budget is clearly that of a television project, so while the book is rather gory, there’s not much to be found here. And the deeply important symbol of love and friendship shown in the book? Of course, nowhere to be found here.
At times, there are changes made here that I sort of like – Ben seeing his father on the marsh (in lieu of a mummy), Stanley facing Pennywise in a creepy house (as opposed to three dead boys in a standpipe), and even Richie’s encounter with the werewolf. Of course, I’d have much preferred the two trips to Neibolt House instead, but the dingy school basement was good also. Lastly, the shower sequence with Eddie always freaked me out when I was younger, so that was welcomed.
I like most of the actors and actresses in this adaptation, really. As far as the kids go, Seth Green (Richie) and Ben Heller (Stan) were my favorite. Emily Perkins (who later goes on to star in the Ginger Snaps series) is nice to see this early on, but I don’t think she really captures Beverly’s essence. For the adults, Harry Anderson (Richie), Dennis Christopher (Eddie), and John Ritter (Ben) stole the show. Pennywise, played by Tim Curry, is of course pretty damn good, and really does a solid job with a creepy performance. Lastly, though he wasn’t relevant whatsoever, it was nice to see William B. Davis years before he was the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files in a small appearance.
Another positive aspect of this movie I have to mention is the score, which is often haunting and rather brilliant. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but every time I hear the score, I get chills. Unfortunately, it was a bit corny of them to put “It’s All Right” by The Impressions on repeat. Some of the dialogue is a bit awful too, such as the line I often quote, “Why does It hate? Why is It so mean?”, and the whole, “He just knows,” exchange. Just felt a bit ridiculous.
All of this is to say that, as a rather big fan of the book (I read it about once a year or so), this adaptation leaves out a lot, and I mean a lot, of important stuff, from the Turtle to Chüd to Neibolt Street. Some of this is due to budget constraints, and the 2017 movie fixes a bit of this, but it’s noticeably lacking here. Still, I cannot deny how important this film is to my love of the genre – I saw this so many times when I was a kid, and it’s one of the eight or so horror movies that’s crucial to me being a horror fan. Because of that nostalgic value, despite the many flaws, against my better judgment, I’d say the movie is just a little below average. If you don’t have any childhood connections to it, though, it might fare quite a bit worse.
On Fight Evil’s fourth podcast, Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I have an almost twenty minute conversation about this mini-series. Warning: strong nostalgia ahead.