Stephen King's It
Almost 30 years before we got the presently super famous 'It', featuring Bill Skarsgård, we had the still-relative miniseries. I think it's safe to say that the miniseries holds a place in the heart of most from my generation. 'It' was always a very interesting phenomenon, growing up. A whole bunch of my peers got into reading the novel as almost a right of passage, relating heavily to the kids involved and the idea of facing personal fears head-on.
Some of that reading was fueled by this, and though it was initially released in November, 'It' soon because synonymous with Halloween. It was almost like 'Saw' or 'Paranormal Activity' in that sense. It had nothing to do with Halloween, but it fit so perfectly, constantly making an annual comeback. If I remember correctly, the miniseries would often return to TV for Halloween night, so that after a night of trick-or-treating, the kids had something suitably scary to watch. Yes, this one was indeed horror for the whole family, and holds a current rating of "TV-PG", just going to show what we used to be able to get away with on the small screen back in the day. Ah, 1990, how I miss you.
Anyway, for those of you who have seen the current version, divided into two fantastic films, you already know how this works. The difference here is largely in how it's told, and the fact that this takes place in the 50s while the remake takes place in the 80s. This all blends pretty awesomely with the idea that Pennywise returns every 27 years to feast on the fears of children (at least if you are able to round to 30). Anyway, while the new movies feature a perfect divide between the story from their childhood and the story from their adulthood, the miniseries does a lot more jumping around, but with a primary focus on childhood in the first episode, and adulthood in the second. To be fair, that's a bit closer to the book's execution as well. I might say the remake takes a few more liberties with the source material.
To start, I'll let you know that when I credit people here, it goes by "adult actor/child actor", as they both play near-equal parts throughout the miniseries. Part One opens with the mysterious murder of a little girl in Derry, Maine, which prompts Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid/Marlon Taylor) to place a few phone calls to his old friends - The Losers Club; Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas/Jonathan Brandis), Eddie Kaspbrak (Dennis Christopher/Adam Faraizl), Stanley Uris (Richard Masur/Ben Heller) Beverly Marsh (Annette O'Toole/Emily Perkins), Ben Hanscom (John Ritter/Brandon Crane) and Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson/Seth Green). The gang made a pact 27 years ago to come back to Derry if "It" ever came back.
One by one, the first part goes through each phone call, and personal recollections from each character about what It was. Although It takes the common form of a clown named Pennywise (Tim Curry), It is really more of an ancient, extraterrestrial evil that makes fearful children its prey, returning to Derry, Maine every 27 years to feed again. It also uses special abilities to its advantage, including shapeshifting, manipulating reality, and going completely unnoticed by adults. The takeaway from the whole ordeal is that these kids have to face their worst fears head on. Then, as adults in Part 2, things seem to get a bit more metaphorical in that fears "return" (they all have some sort of pressure going on in their adulthood) and they reunite to conquer them once and for all. I also fell that much of this has to do with the support of strong friendships in the face of adversity. I've always seen it as very symbolic, and something anyone can relate to.
Out of all of Stephen King's material, it's probably safe to say that this is the story I've gotten the most out of over the years. One should take that with a grain of salt though, since this is the only King book I've ever read through (on audio, anyway), and that was for Halloween, last year. I enjoyed it, but I have to be blasphemous and say out of all of the 'It' material out there, I personally enjoy the two remakes more than anything else. The book gets... super, super, super weird - and I'm not just talking about the 12-year-old orgy at the end (yes, it's totally a thing). As for the film at hand, however, there's a lot to be said about it.
It's interesting to me that this was a huge risk for ABC to take in airing, as in 1990, horror TV wasn't exactly at the top of the list of things to make. However, King fans took a real liking to it, and it really did turn into a bit of a Halloween tradition for many, for a while. So needless to say, it certainly had its popularity back then. Although pretty creepy for the time, however, it has aged to be pretty corny, altogether. The acting and dialogue often feels a bit stilted, the visual effects weren't quite touching CG yet, and all in all, it's not entirely scary... bearing in mind this is rated TV-PG. But one thing about it has remained a continued guilty pleasure for many, including myself, and that's Tim Curry's wonderfully hammy performance as Pennywise. He's having so much fun with the role, you can't help but be oddly charmed by him.
I know I didn't exactly get deep into detail on the basic plot here, but I feel like just about anyone reading this knows what it's about, and to get into detail would really drag this already fairly long review out. So to conclude it, I will say that although I recommend the 2017/2019 films, there's definitely a really fun, Halloween connection I have to this all the same. It's not quite an annual watch, but it totally could be, even though it's not even really that good of a miniseries. I suppose one could chalk it up to a certain nostalgia, as this represents an interesting risk that sort of opened the doors up for horror TV, or at least allowing drama and sci-fi TV to have a more horrific edge ('X-Files' anyone?). It's a product of its time, but a lot of fun if you have three long hours to kill.
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