Friday, July 28, 2017

Stephen King's IT (1990) [PG-13]

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Writer: Lawrence D. Cohen & Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: 
Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown/IT
Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough
Jonathan Brandis as Young Bill Denbrough
John Ritter as Ben Hanscom
Brandon Crane as Young Ben Hanscom
Annette O'Toole as Beverly Marsh
Emily Perkins as Young Beverly Marsh
Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak
Adam Faraizl as Young Eddie Kaspbrak
Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon
Marlon Taylor as Young Mike Hanlon
Michael Cole as Henry Bowers
Jarred Blancard as Young Henry Bowers
Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier
Seth Green as Young Richie Tozier
Richard Masur as Stanley Uris
Ben Heller as Young Stanley Uris
Gabe Khouth as Victor Criss
Chris Eastman as Belch Huggins

Synopsis: IT terrorized them 30 years ago as kids and now these adults are called back to confront IT again - hopefully once and for all.

Review: If you have never read the book, the film can definitely seem to have a few "missing pieces". I personally have never read the book, but I have read the synopsis on Wikipedia, as well as seen a couple YouTube videos that help fill in some blanks. I don't think I have the stomach to read the novel, quite frankly, so this review is mostly just from the TV series and what I've gathered from reading and hearing about the novel.

If you've ever heard anything about this miniseries before, it's probably that Tim Curry was phenomenal. This cannot be stated enough. Tim Curry is an amazingly talented actor who is largely underrated. He is usually perfect in any role he plays but he's especially superb in this one. The fact that he started with plays, rather than films, really shows in his performance. He captures the look, the feel, the voice, - just every little nuance so perfectly in this character. Whether you are familiar with Curry or not, you probably wouldn't even recognize him as he completely becomes his role. Perfect performance from a phenomenal actor. The "series" also has the perfect amount of "scare" and "suspense", unfolding Pennywise's character in just the right amount of increments all along the way.

Although Tim Curry is far and away the standout performer in this "film", it's not to take away from the great jobs that everyone else does. The kids do a wonderful job and come off completely genuine and compelling. The adults do a wonderful job matching their child-counterparts and keeping the integrity of the characters they play. (Albeit not as inherently charming as the children - but how could they be?)

Part 1 tends to focus more on flashbacks from 30 years ago (featuring more of the kids) and Part 2 tends to focus more on the "present-day" story (30 years later, featuring more of the adults). As a result, many viewers will find part 1 to be a more compelling story than part 2, as the plot naturally lends itself to being more compelling since the cast are mostly kids in part 1. This adds so much more suspense and intrigue - though it should be said that part 2 executes it's adult story pretty well, even though it has a few more faults in the script than part 1 (mainly due to time restraints as the novel itself is over 1,000 pages and the series was originally going to be 8 hrs. instead of just 3 hrs.).

Part 1:
Acting: 20/20
Writing:  38/40
Directing/Editing/Production/Etc:  38/40

Overall:  96/100 A

Review: Watching an adult dressed like a clown going after children already comes with a certain amount of fright, and the "series" did a great job keeping intrigue and suspense - especially if you're a horror fan.

Spoiler Alert! (Including the Novel)

Some people might see Tim Curry's performance as being more "comical" but it was this manipulative attitude of Pennywise that made him so frightening. Just like when people really do go after children, they start off mostly coming off as friendly and inviting, turning ugly and nasty when the kid starts to reject them. This was accurate to the premise and character - especially considering the fact that he is "Pennywise the Dancing Clown". Key word being "clown". Everything was a joke to him - particularly your life and death. He was sadistic and entrancing, you could never look away when he's on screen. Furthermore, his makeup and very appearance is frightening enough, let alone the way he holds himself and speaks etc. The fact that he's often only scary in a subtle way - until showing his true "colors" - is part of the brilliance of his character. The way he lures in Georgie is the best example of this (another good one is the little girl in the very beginning).

This movie is a good psychological thriller as IT doesn't just kill but he psychologically tortures you first as he claims they "taste better when [they're] afraid". This is probably disturbingly true. After all, humans have been known to torture animals before killing them because they say it makes the "meat taste better".

This series has some very funny and witty lines ("Get some new material, champ.") and is not burdened by political correctness. Some lines are more fun ("I hate it when you stutter my name Bill, you sound like Elmer Fudd.") and some are more malicious, but many are lines that one wouldn't hear in films and miniseries made today. These lines are done in the proper context and are not done for shock value or the sake of vulgarity etc.

That being said, the way the abusive relationship is played out between adult Beverly and her boyfriend is very much in the style of unbelievable Lifetime movies - particularly the idea that he was beating her with a "belt" and left her alone just because she said she'd "kill him" - which should've infuriated him. Furthermore, the miniseries did not have the abusive character, Tom, follow Beverly out to Derry, Maine, which would've been more accurate to that extreme of a character. It was also a missed opportunity not to show him being killed by IT after following her, which is what did happen in the novel.

The miniseries did a good job with Eddie's character but there was a key chain-of-events that were missing from the novel that should've been included with the miniseries: Since they showed Eddie's mother forbidding Eddie from hanging out with his friends anymore - yet he clearly kept doing it anyways, they should have showed when he confronted his mother about lying to him about his asthma and making the deal to keep taking the "medicine" as long as he still got to see his friends - especially considering they did show the pharmacist telling Eddie about his mother's lies.

Since this novel/miniseries takes place in the late 1950s/early 1960s, it also gives the story more intrigue and symbolism, showing the end of a "golden era"/childhood and innocence. There are also a lot of interesting "sign of the times" scenes and lines. For example, even though the kids were building a dam that they were scorned by the police officer for, he only warned them to stick together if they were ever down there since other children had been killed or gone missing; whereas today the police officer would have told them not to go down there anymore, at all.

The way the "Losers club" comes together is a very entertaining and interesting story, as well as somewhat heartwarming. The way they find each other and help each other through all of the horrible things they are all going through was a touching part of the overall story, especially when they stand up together against the bullies (rock scene). Not only are these kids dealing with the threat of Pennywise, but they are also dealing with their childhoods and innocence coming to an end and dealing with a ton of problems, such as bullying, abusive parents, deceased parents/siblings, etc. When they take on Pennywise at the end, they serve as the "voice of reason" for each other when they are each visited with hallucinations from IT - another sign of the strength they give each other.

Since Part 1 ends with Stan's committing suicide, the miniseries would've been better served to have played up his "seeing the deadlights" or coming into contact with a "truer form of IT" more. Just adding a couple of lines from him, perhaps saying "I saw IT.. The REAL IT..." with a frightened face would've been a nice small addition to help build more credibility to his committing suicide. His childhood was one of the least harsh ones - by the miniseries or the novel - so the mere idea that he "couldn't face his past" was a little confusing. Even though he was the one who was grabbed out of the circle, that in itself didn't seem to be enough for him to commit suicide either, since he wasn't hurt in that scene by IT at all.

Whoever is to thank for not including the "loss of virginities to Beverly" scene, did us all a favor in the miniseries. There were plenty of allusions to the special bond that the group had without needing to go into such territory - such as Beverly joking about being on a "first date" with the guys and showing "equal" affection to them (aside from her moments with Bill, of course). I see this as an improvement from the novel to the miniseries.

There are so many iconic scenes from this miniseries, particularly including: the shots of Pennywise behind the laundry sheets (in the beginning), when Pennywise appears in the gutter to Georgie, when Pennywise appears in the shower to Eddie - forcing his way through the little hole, the creepy-looking mini-castle connected to the sewers that IT dwells in and probably the most iconic, is when Pennywise came to life in the picture, dancing around until making his way to the front and threatening to drive the Losers Club "crazy and then kill them all".

End of Spoiler Alert!

Part 2:
Acting: 20/20
Writing:  35/40
Directing/Editing/Production/Etc:  35/40

Overall:  90/100 A-

Review: Seeing the kids from Part 1 deal with Pennywise as an adult was an interesting premise. Not as interesting as part 1 but still worth the watch as it is done pretty well. Part 1 is definitely much better fleshed out than part 2. Part 2 follows part 1 nicely up until about the last 1/3rd of the "film" where there tends to be more "missing pieces" from the novel etc.

Spoiler Alert! (Including the Novel)

It was interesting when Ben went back as an adult to the Barrens and encountered both, how some things never change and how some things change entirely. Just as he had been the "fat boy" being chased by the bullies, he saw a new generation of bullies chasing the new "fat boy". On the other hand, Ben encountered a homeless person in the Barrens; a stark contrast to the "homeless" situation he was in, in the past (his childhood) where his aunt took he and his mother in.

While the vast majority of people are happy not to have seen the "child orgy" scene (myself included), there were some more allusions to this when adult Beverly kisses 3 of the different now-adult Losers club members in a romantic-like manner (Richie, Bill & Ben). Without the context from the book, this just comes off incredibly odd and nonsensical.

Showing Stan encountering the mummy in a house seemed like a last-minute addition to try and add a reason as to why he committed suicide, and it was very unclear when this was supposed to have taken place - presumably before beating IT but even that wasn't made clear.

Just like Part 1, Part 2 also has some funny, witty lines including those of the politically incorrect variety ("Speaking of dads, Bevvie, yours isn't worried about you anymore, he loves your choice in men... Wheezy, how's your sex life? What's your sex life?").

Since the miniseries showed Pennywise influencing Henry Bowler as an adult, it would've been convenient if they had showed Pennywise also influencing him as a child as it would've added more consistency and credibility to that subplot. Without it happening with child-Henry, it seemed to occur out of nowhere with adult-Henry - begging the question "why now?".

Even though they established the "Derry Disease" of the town residents ignoring events involving IT, it still didn't make much sense to just leave Henry's dead body in the hotel room with the police "not really caring". After all, he had just escaped from an asylum and nearly killed Mike.

Eddie's confession about being a "virgin" right before encountering IT's true form was a really weird way to foreshadow his dying and perhaps his homosexuality or something? This scene was a tad confusing and seemingly misplaced and/or unnecessary. Furthermore, the way that Eddie does die was also confusing as we are left to assume he died from the fall of the spider's grasps. The way Eddie died in the book could've been easily incorporated here and made much more sense - as well as been more noble.

Ending IT by showing his "true" form to be a spider was very anticlimactic as the end form needed to be more frightening than Pennywise, not less. This form also didn't match the weird looking hand that IT's hand became at the end of Part 1 when they tried to pull him out of the hole to stop him from escaping (which would've came off more consistent and maybe more creepy than the spider). It would have been better if a "darker" version of Pennywise was the true form (like what his face looked like after getting burned with "battery acid") underneath the "light facade". Either way, the spider was a let-down compared to Pennywise.

In addition, the idea of people in wrapped up in webs, descending after IT had been defeated seemed completely out of nowhere and nonsensical. Why is he keeping bodies wrapped up like that? And why do they mostly seem like adults rather than children, his established preference?

All of that being said, I do think it was the right call not to go into all of the "extraterrestrial" part of IT - including the Turtle and Macroverse etc. - as all of that gets really confusing and in my opinion, takes away from the overall story. I think the miniseries did a great job showing that sometimes, less is more.

Part 2 does have it's own iconic scenes and shots, such as the opening with Pennywise and the 7 graves with 1 of them being "taken", the library scene with Richie and all of the balloons - with those iconic bad jokes since Richie was a comedian and Pennywise is a clown, Ben seeing Pennywise on the side of the road holding balloons as well as the balloon that appears inside of the taxi with him, the old woman who turns into her dead father that Beverly encounters, the fortune cookie scene, Stan's severed head making jokes and threats in the library refrigerator and Pennywise's face appearing in the moon.

The "happy endings" for the characters in the aftermath of finally defeating IT was a nice touch after such a dark thriller. It was done well without being too "over the top" and too Hollywood-ized.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Part 1 & 2 Combined:
Acting: 20/20
Writing:  36.5/40
Directing/Editing/Production/Etc:  36.5/40

Overall:  93/100 A

The music overall is done very well, whether being purely suspenseful or adding the corny carnival music into the mix - it never takes away from the scenes, adding to them instead.

Overall this film was very suspenseful with outstanding performances. Above and beyond what would be expected of a "TV mini-series" and a timeless classic.

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