Since the recent adaptation is storming the box office, I thought it’d be appropriate to look at the 1990 TV version of Stephen King’s It.
This two-part miniseries is not the horror masterpiece its reputation would suggest, it’s more of a pulpy horror film similar to tv shows like Tales from the Crypt and Goosebumps, just with more likable characters. Its main weakness however is its pacing.
If you don’t know the premise, the story concerns a group of childhood friends trying to kill a monstrous entity that takes the form of an individual’s greatest fear, its most common form being a clown known as Pennywise.
If you’re expecting heart stopping jump scares like in Paranormal Activity or disgusting body horror like in The Thing, It will disappoint you. If you’re an adult you’re likely to find the horror occasionally disturbing but mostly charming.
With blood filled balloons, living photographs, random monsters and the sadistic Pennywise, the horror is pulpy and childlike. It’s not terrifying but it’s certainly entertaining.
In their childhood, we see that most of the friends have a weakness or troubled background. Bill has a stutter, Beverly has an abusive father, Ben is overweight, Eddie has an overprotective mother and Mike is black in a time where people of his race are discriminated against.
Seeing them bond in ‘the Losers Club’, embracing each other’s weaknesses, makes them very relatable and empathetic. When you see them together as adults, you feel their joy and nostalgia because you’ve known them as kids. You feel like you’re reuniting with old friends.
With the childlike horror and likable characters, I think It could’ve been a fun horror film like Wishmaster and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. However, I thought the pacing of both episodes was so slow it nearly spoiled the film completely.
The film has the same issue I had with Harlan Ellison’s 7 Against Chaos. As interesting and empathetic as the characters are, too much time is spent developing them. The first episode is almost nothing but character development and backstory. I thought there were many scenes that could’ve been cut, like Ben’s fight with his cousins, the encounter with the bullies at the cinema, Beverly’s meeting with the Japanese investors and Ben’s suicide attempt.
With minimum Pennywise, horror and chemistry It can be a challenging watch. I appreciate that the film tried to get us to really know the characters but there’re seven of them and by the time Richie’s flashback was done, I was feeling bored. If a few scenes were cut out, It could’ve been a single two-hour film.
The horror and characters are great but whether they’re worth enduring hours of filler for or not is up to you. If you like Stephen King and 90s’ horror, then I proudly recommend It.
I give It a decent 6 out of 10.