Stephen King creates the ultimate boogeyman and he happens to be a clown who is neither man nor monster. Though “Stephen King’s It” is filled with the usual King doldrums of a small town, hidden demons in the town, and at least one character that wants to be an author, director Tommy Lee Wallace’s adaptation is a very good bit of nostalgia, and a perfectly good horror film. All things considered. It gets a lot of flack for straying from the original novel greatly, but it is a 1990 television movie, so for the resources director Wallace is given, it offers up a creepy and spooky tale about the past coming back to haunt you.
Set in Derry, Maine, a town that just can’t get rid of its resident boogeyman, King explores the perils of growing up, while contrasting the terrors of familial dysfunction with an otherworldly monster. Tim Curry gives an amazing performance as the demonic clown known as Pennywise, a lost relic from a time never quite explained to the audience. Most of ‘It” is told through flashbacks as children around Derry Maine are suddenly being murdered. Mike, the only remaining man who remembers confronting Pennywise the Clown, begins summoning his group of friends from his childhood, reminding them of their sacred pact that bonded them one summer.
Pennywise re-emerges every thirty years to feed on children’s souls, and now he’s back to wreak havoc. The first half of “It” is set in the sixties where we center on a group of misfits named “The Losers Club” that hang around one another attempting to escape their problems at home. When group leader Bill’s little brother is murdered by Pennywise, the group suddenly begins getting terrorized by the demonic clown, and they decide to stop him once and for all. The first half of “It” is the most compelling, mainly because the performances from the child actors are genuine and filled with anxiety and horror. All of the young inadvertent heroes experience some form of dysfunction in their homes, and spend their days looking for some form of escape. That is until Pennywise introduces a new threat in their lives that surely will doom them if they allow him to tap at their inner most fears.
Pennywise is a being filled with zeal at murdering children and feeding on them, so he offers no quarter to any child unlucky enough to cross his path. He also feeds on their anxieties so he enjoys breaking them down mentally. This provides some startling moments including character Richie’s confrontation with a werewolf, and Mike whose photo album comes to life. The young cast is filled with great up and comers like Elizabeth Perkins, Seth Green, and the late Jonathan Brandis who gives Mike a real heart. The second half is mainly a ton of exposition and “It” falls off the momentum once we’re introduced to the group, now all unfulfilled and unhappy adults sullied by their experience with Pennywise.
There isn’t too much of a reason why Pennywise should be tormenting these adults, when he could easily be horrifying other children in town. And there’s not a lot of cause for it to be scared of them, considering the being never runs out of tricks. So, the entire final half feels forced and not as harrowing as the first go around with the evil monster. The performances from the all star cast of television stars are somewhat lackluster, especially from Richard Thomas who doesn’t quite match up to Jonathan Brandis’ struggles to make sense of his ordeal, let alone his debilitating stutter. That said, “It” does accomplish a tale that’s spooky, terrifying, and extraordinary, while star Tim Curry brings this monster to life with immense perfection.
It’s by no means a masterpiece, but for a tale about old age, and the past coming back to haunt you, Tommy Lee Wallace offers a respectable horror film that’s worthy of an audience.