Friday, January 18, 2013
(November 1990, U.S.)
You may have forgotten about this, because IT's been some time, but my film collection also includes some made-for-TV movies and the majority of them are based on Stephen King novels. I read the original book IT way back in 1987, and while I can't say I'm easily frightened by the printed word, the whole time I was reading, IT was easy to envision a truly scary epic horror film at some point. To bring this story to television represents a special challenge, in my opinion, because TV censorships won't allow excessive blood or gore on the small screen. That means such a filmmaker who takes on the project is going to have to rely on true scare tactics wIThout going over the deep end of camp or silliness.
IT is the story that revolves around an inter-dimensional predatory life-form in the small town of Derry, Maine (a frequent Stephen King locale), which has the ability to transform ITself into its prey's worst fears allowing IT to exploit the phobias of ITs victims, in this case, innocent children. Throughout the film, IT takes the form mostly of a sadistic, ultra-wisecracking clown called "Pennywise the Dancing Clown" (played freakishly and devilishly by Tim Curry). The victims here are "The Losers Club", a group of social outcasts who discover Pennywise and vow to destroy him by any means necessary. The series takes place over two different time periods; the first when the "Losers" first discover Pennywise as children in 1960, and the second when they're called back as successful adults in the year 1990 to defeat Pennywise, who has resurfaced to kill children again.
If you've read enough Stephen King in your time, then you know he's not only a man who can scare you to death, but also a man who clearly holds a very special bond to the childhood and friendships he had during a much simpler time in America; a time of flashy automobiles, AM rock and roll, fountain sodas and Saturday afternoon matinee monster movies. Such a simpler time of simpler people makes IT prime hunting ground for the most terrifying of evils. And the fact that the victims are innocent children makes them the true believers of not only the evil that terrorizes them, but also of the strength of their friendship, faith and loyalties they'll need to defeat that evil. Such friendship and loyalties are not only key to this story, IT's also quite touching, as well.
To really get into the evil of IT here, one cannot avoid diving deep into Tim Curry's outstanding performance as "Pennywise". Let's just say that everything he does, says and expresses in this film only defines to a greater extent why I've always HATED clowns my entire life! Let's be honest, shall we? Clowns can more often than not be some real scary looking creatures when they're completely made up (no wonder little Robbie Freeling was freaked out by his stuffed clown in POLTERGEIST)! Really, take a long, good look at this guy and tell me he's not the most sick-ass thing you've ever seen...
(IT's enough to put you off of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey for the rest of your life!)
Continuing my perspective of the evil of IT in this story, I have to say that I was disappointed to learn that in the end the origin of the monster is nothing more than a giant spider. Really, a giant spider?? Was that the best King could come up with? Perhaps from the artist's perspective, IT's a throwback to those 'B' giant monster movies that he remembers so fondly as a child. And whether I accept IT or not, IT's childhood memories and fears that are key to IT.
IT also greatly succeeds in its casting. These are actors we've all seen before, including John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Harry Anderson and Annette O'Toole, but none that could ever be called true movie stars of box office power before. This is a positive point because we're left with people who can actually act and give into the fear that their characters are meant to experience, particularly Ritter and Thomas, who prove they can go far beyond THREE'S COMPANY and THE WALTONS. Harry Anderson, on the other hand, is just about as silly as he ever was on NIGHT COURT. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.
Twenty-three years after the original television broadcast premiered of IT as a two part mini-series on ABC-TV, IT seems that Hollywood is looking into a remake of their own for this story. Surprised? Of course not! Hollywood has no originality of ITs own any longer so it needs to keep the recycling machiine operating as long as possible. Fuck them! IT is perfectly and deliciously scary just as IT is!
FavorITe line or dialogue:
Mike Hanlon (as a kid): "This is the old iron works. One Sunday back in 1930, there was an Easter egg hunt here. But the iron works exploded and all these people got killed. This is the Derry sandpipe. It supplied all the water to the town until a big disaster back in 1900. Maybe the biggest mystery is how two hundred fifty-three settlers just disappeared without a trace."