They all float down here. –Pennywise the Dancing Clown
I apologize if the pictures trigger some kind of clown-fearing flashback… but for people my age who were just kids in 1990 when the T.V. miniseries based upon Stephen King’s 1986 novel “It” came out, that is actually a possibility. The book is frightening enough and in many ways more disturbing than the miniseries. But, if you haven’t experienced “It” yet I suggest tracking down a copy of the miniseries first. First of all it’s terrifying. If you (like me) enjoy being frightened this is a huge plus for watching the miniseries. But what makes it truly GOOD is its frightening for all of the little intangible things it gets right, rather than the big and splashy “horror movie scenes” which it kind of gets wrong.
There’s not much of the “blood and gore” that makes the horror genre frightening because of the grotesque scenery. It only uses “surprise jump” scares a couple of times, and each time it really telegraphs the scare. So much so you could almost do a countdown. “I’m gonna scare you in 3 - 2 - 1… BOO.” And even though I advocate that this is a mistake, you see Pennywise kill a kid in the first scene of the movie. Partially defining the bad guy which (like I said in the previous post) can really decrease how frightening the monster or villain can be.
But what it gets right are so many of the little things that you don’t even really notice any of those criticisms. The casting was very good. Starring Richard Thomas (famous for his portrayal of John ‘”Boy” Walton on The Waltons) as the “main” character Bill Denbrough. And backed up by a solid cast of actors including Harry Anderson (of Night Court fame) and the late John Ritter. But the casting was actually more difficult than that, because half of the movie is a flashback to the childhoods of the adult characters. So for most of the main cast, there had to be and adult and child version of each character. And relying on child actors to deliver a comparable performance to such a good cast for half of the movie was a risky move. But it paid off, they did a great job. Starting with the late Jonathan Brandis as the young Bill Denbrough, and backed up by a young Seth Green (known for roles in Austin Powers and Family Guy.)
And the cast worked in tandem with a fantastic script. It was well adapted for T.V. from one of the GOOD Stephen King books. But no matter how well a screenplay is written, it can only really “come alive” when read by a good actor. And the REAL star (to me anyway) of “It” was Tim Curry in his amazing and pants-soiling terrifying portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Lots of writers could write great lines like “Let go. Be afraid. You all taste so much better when you're afraid,” and, “Oh you are priceless Brat! I am eternal, child. I am the eater of worlds, and of children. And you are next! I'm every nightmare you've ever had. I'm your worst dream come true. I'm everything you ever were afraid of.”
Beep, Beep Richie.
But none of that dialogue would be as effective without the amazing delivery from the super-expressive Tim Curry. Don’t take my word for it, just watch here. The “early 90’s pre HD” slightly grainy television look is a little dated, as well as the 4:3 Television aspect ratio (as opposed to the more usual 16:9 widescreen format of today.) But because half of the movie is a flashback… that actually works somehow. And if you are reading this… you can watch the entire thing for free on youtube here. That’s part 1, just follow the link on the page for part 2.
But don’t say I didn’t warn you. The look may have “aged” a little, but the scares are very real and have not diminished with time. I’ve actually seen grown men pull the “hands over their eyes” move during this movie. It’s memorable, scary, and very, very good. But it’s not for the faint of heart or people who don’t like a good scare.
I’ve gone over a movie, TV miniseries, book, and videogame. I’ll drop one more October themed blog next week.