As an appetizer to the much anticipated new feature film adaption of one of my all time favorite books, I went back to watch the original 1990 ABC TV film adaption of STEPHEN KING'S IT.
The book is a massive, 1136 page horror opus filled with great characters, complete stories in two different times and one of the most page-turning, well written horror stories of all time.
In 1989, ABC decided to adapt the massive story into a two-night miniseries, but King fans like myself knew it was a lot of story to try to fit into even two chapters, or about 3 hours of running time.
Two sets of actors play our characters as children and then as adults, with a powerful group of 7 fighting off the supernatural, pure evil of an entity that often takes the form of Pennywise The Clown.
I hated clowns before the book and movie. IT didn't help.
In King's often used fictional town of Derry, Maine, children are disappearing or are being found mutilated, often near the sewer grates where Pennywise loves to lure them with his Bozo-gone Jack Nicholson makeup and endless floating balloons.
As the children come together to form a "loser's club" they find they have a special power as a group, with the combined power to defeat the evil, or at least drive it into hiding.
When the child murders begin in Derry 30 years later, they come back as adults to join forces and defeat Pennywise once and for all.
The cast is very good. Both Richard Thomas and young Jonathan Brandis are terrific as horror writer Bill, John Ritter and young Brandon Crane are very good as Ben Hanscomb, the heart of the group and Tim Reid, Annette O'Toole and a very young Seth Green are all spot on.
Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Home Alone 2) is fantastic as Pennywise, creating a horrific impression throughout even though he probably only has about ten total minutes of screen time. Luring children into sewer grates or dark tunnels is creepy enough, but in Curry's hands, its terrifying.
It's impossible to stuff a nearly 1200 page book into three hours. The majority of the nuance, detail and heart that have the novel its power are gone and you're left with a well acted, still interesting story that will keep you guessing.
The biggest limitations of the film aren't time, they are the 1990 special effects, which may have been cool nearly 30 years ago, but cripple it for current viewing.
Even at the time when watching it on TV (and IT was a HUGE ratings hit) I remember seeing the last 30 minutes deflate all that had gone before it due to childish special effects and low budget efforts on the conclusion.
The first two hours of the movie are well done and set a creepy, consistent mood. The last 30 minutes pops like one of Pennywise's balloons under the massive weight of expectations vs poor execution.
It makes me all the more excited to see the new feature film adaption breaking in September 2017.
We'll give this three hour movie adaption a solid B-, knowing the first two thirds clearly gets an A, but OH the last twenty minutes and the "Land of the Lost" grade special effects....ouch.
As Pennywise leers."Everything floats, Georgie!!"....except for a bigger budget to finish the film in style apparently.
Read the book. IT's one of the all time best.