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It (1990) Mini-Series Review

Written by Josh Brewer, July 1st, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer


Title: It (1990)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Writer: Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on the Novel by Stephen King
Release Date: November 18th, 1990
Cast: Tim Curry!!! Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Annette O’Toole, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, Richard Masur, Jonathan Brandis, Brandon Crane, Emily Perkins, Seth Green, Adam Faraizl, Marlon Taylor, Ben Heller.

Cliff’s Notes

As youths, seven kids take on a supernatural force that uses their fears against them. Alas, they don’t quite pull it off and have to finish the job as adults.

Lecture

It stands as a mammoth achievement of literary storytelling. The novel manages to take the best elements of King’s work and combine them into a single, palpable horror story. And the 

miniseries? Yeah, no where near that good.

That’s not to say that this puppy doesn’t work. It (1990) essentially splits its time between 1960 and 1990, showing both the Loser’s Club – the name for the collective of our seven heroes- taking on It as children and then as adults. While this could inherently be interesting, It (1990) doesn’t manage to pull it off. The first half, focusing on the Losers taking on Pennywise the Dancing Clown and all of his terror, simply rocks. It manages to conjure up the very base elements of fear and then runs rampant with them. Much of this success falls to Curry, who fills his killer clown with pure terror.

Alas, the second half doesn’t manage to be anywhere near as successful. The cast does well, and Curry rocks, but the film begins to lag after the halfway point, eventually becoming waterlogged and useless. The horror fades out, leaving the film stuck in iffy tv-movie land. It doesn’t help that the budget of the flick works against it, the climax feels especially weak and the effects look cheap, which means the flick becomes tiring, not engaging.

Acting

The massive cast means that everyone has to hold their weight, and the do. The best of the adult characters probably falls to John Ritter, who gives an earnest, solid performance. Thomas does the leading man thing well. I was surprised that the kids come off as well as they did. Brandis and Green stand out, each adding a level of clarity that younger actors often miss. However, everyone plays second banana to the terrifying work of Tim Curry. The entirety of the film hangs on his demented, amazing performance and he does so with gusto. Curry makes the film better and the parts that he’s not in just lack.

Directing

Wallace starts strong, but eventually crumbles under the overbearing weight of the run time and a lackluster take on the latter half of the story. He provides a number of opportunities for his cast to kick ass, Curry stands out because of this, and manages to keep an atmosphere of fear lurking throughout the series. Alas, once his younger cast makes their exit, Wallace doesn’t manage to keep the tension going, leading to a lackluster second half. He gets a few solid scares and a couple of nice angles, so that helps.

Script

It may be King’s strongest – and most terrifying- novel. Alas, the adaptation doesn’t manage to hold the story together nearly as well. While the first half is well paced and handles its scares well, the second seems long and unwieldy. It (1990) also struggles with the occasional rough line. The first half manages to work around this, though by the time hour three rolls around, the collective errors have added up.

Effects

It (1990) is a touch of a mixed bag. Pennywise looks amazing and his design rocks. The creatures outside of It don’t always hold up. This puppy premiered on the telly, so most of the kills happen off screen.  Oh, and the spider sucks.

Highlights

All of the nightmares that Tim Curry has caused since the flick premiered.

Lowlights

The second half can’t match the first.

Final Thoughts  

Uneven to the extreme, It (1990) does not manage to maintain the terrifying atmosphere for its entire run time. The first half of this puppy rocks, while the second pales in comparison.

Grade: B-

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