Review: Stephen King’s It (1990)

Tommy Lee Wallace’s miniseries captures a quintessential Stephen King nightmare with uneven proficiency, heavily boosted by creepy cinematography and set design. Spoilers to follow.

What was most disappointing about this adaptation is the pace. I’m not sure this needed to be a three-hour epic. In some ways, that kind of languid storytelling could vastly amp up the tension created by the awful presence of ‘It’. Theoretically, it should also allow ample time for the ensemble cast to unpack their individual characters and connect with the audience.

But Wallace’s It doesn’t do that – not fully. There are moments of camaraderie and joy between members of the Losers Club (both as children and as adults), but nothing more than fleeting instances. The acting itself is fine if a tad over-the-top and unbelievable, but that’s bearable and almost expected in a horror film. However, the writing did nothing to fill in the blanks beyond each character’s archetype.

Nevertheless, the adaptation makes use of truly horrifying imagery –  the image of Beverly Marsh’s father gripping a blood covered sink without any realisation of what he’s doing sticks with me – to steer viewers out of the bored slump of ‘normalcy’ in Derry. Close-ups on drains and sewers also evoke some kind of dread. Furthermore, ‘It’ symbolises death in varying forms; in decay and disembodiment.

Tim Curry’s portrayal of ‘It’ / Pennywise the Dancing Clown was a little bit of a letdown, which surprised me the most of all since it’s the one aspect of the film people seem to universally love. There are things about him that are scary – physically, those teeth are quite literally nightmarish. But he is much more frightening as an afterthought than he is onscreen – the idea that ‘It’ could be in the drains of your own house is far creepier than visually seeing Curry as the clown. He is definitely a highlight of the film, but I was still expecting more from the hype.

It’s always a shame when classics don’t live up to all the expectations we’ve had for years, but overall, It isn’t bad. Perhaps it would resonate more upon rewatch. The real issue I have with it is being able to see how the pieces ought to fall into place, then feeling close to nothing when the time eventually came.

★★½

2 thoughts on “Review: Stephen King’s It (1990)”

  1. I just recently watched this for the first time and I felt the exact same as you. Still, it made me more hopeful for the upcoming remake because I just saw so many areas where they could improve. I’m really hoping that in the film we’re about to get, the child actors are more convincing and really make me feel how terrifying IT actually is.

    Liked by 1 person

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