I must be in a Stephen King kind of a mood this Halloween Season (see my reviews for “Salem’s Lot” and “The Shining”). That being said, it is high time that I write about my personal favorite Stephen King work. “Stephen King’s It” was a TV miniseries that captured the entire storyline of the novel without all of the detail – which I must say was for the best. Allow me to dive right into the plot.
The plot centers on a group of 7 kids growing up in Derry, Maine in the 1960s. One by one, each kid has dealings with a child-killing monster in the form of the chilling Pennywise the Clown. 30 years after the kids unite to defeat the monster, IT has returned and the killings have begun again. Now, as adults, the “Loser Club” of the 7 kids must unite to face down the monster once more. King and in particular Director Tommy Lee Wallace captures the era of the 1960s perfectly! There is just something about King’s trip back to that time period that gets me every time. The story is made even more influential by focusing on kids. This story is about fear and what scares us most – I think – is whatever scared us most as kids. Having the devilish monster in the story take the form of a clown was a remarkable feat. It has made Pennywise the Clown an icon in the film genre of Horror.
All of that having been said, the performances of the kids in this movie (notably Jonathan Brandis and Seth Green) make the film riveting. I always enjoy watching the kids segments in the film better than watching them as adults. There are some gaps in the film that are better explained in the novel, but it isn’t vital to the viewer’s enjoyment. There’s just not enough film sometimes to get the entire book in there. That’s okay in my opinion – just as long as you don’t sacrifice something REALLY important. What those kids experience and even how some of the scenes are filmed (I like Pennywise’s 1st appearance in the film) is something that always sticks with me after the film ends. I can never turn this movie off when I run across it on TV – which NEVER happens anymore it seems. ( Boooo!) I get trapped in Derry, Maine for a little while and it scares the stuffing out of me. Imagine being a kid and being hunted by this monster that EATS children! Yeah, that thought will haunt most people I would say.
There’s a lot of material in here that I don’t recommend for younger audiences and parents that want to shield their children from really “offensive” material. That material includes: suicide, child killings, domestic abuse, child abuse, murder, and criminal insanity. (I normally don’t bother to alert folks to this kind of “rating” system, but I feel it might be needed here.) The good guys are ready for the challenge, but not without reservations. Pennywise is very resourceful and he shows up in the darnedest of places (mini-fridges and Chinese restaurants included). Even faced with the horrible monster of their youth, the Losers Club seems a little shaky as adults. As Richie Tozier says “I hope that someone remembered to bring something useful, like a machine gun.” Gone is their belief in magic, replaced by irrational fears and the problems of adulthood. I find this to be the key to my enjoyment of this film.
Too many times, we forget the magic of our youth as we get older. However, all it takes is one thing to bring us back in time. It could be a place, a smell, an object, or any one of a hundred things. What if we had to confront something really awful as a child? What if you blocked out most of those awful memories? What if a childhood friend from your hometown that lived through that awfulness with you suddenly called you and asked for your help confronting that same thing again? After 30 years, would you have the strength, the resolve, to make that trip?
That’s the question that is asked in “Stephen King’s IT” and I think that’s why I like it so much. The film challenges us as viewers to make that fateful journey where each hero must face their own worst fear.
As a fan of the book even more so than the film, I wish they could have put another 2 hours into the miniseries. I would have loved to see more of the back story involving Mike Hanlon’s character! Alas, I am left with what we have – even though I was ever wishful of an extended cut of the film! This is a great Halloween miniseries that never gets old and deserves a place of honor among my Horror DVDs. At 192 minutes, you will get your fill of the creepy town of Derry, B-b-b-b-bill Denbrough, “Haystack” Hanscom, Bev Marsh (who makes us worry a lot), Mike “the Lighthouse Keeper” Hanlon, Eddie “Spaghetti”, “Beep Beep” Ritchie, Stan “the Jew”, and the one & only PENNYWISE THE CLOWN!
To quote the deadliest clown EVER: “I’m every nightmare you’ve ever had! I am your worst dream come true! I’M EVERYTHING YOU EVER WERE AFRAID OF!”
Happy Halloween, everyone!
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE