Stephen King is synonymous with some of the best horror books ever written and It would have to stand up as one of his greatest. Being a personal favourite, I was more than a little surprised that even an attempt had been made to make this brilliant book into a film. The book is filled with incredible detail and requires an enormous amount of imagination to translate the words into pictures and, quite simply, trying to reproduce this vision on film would seem a little pointless. The fact that this is also a telemovie didn’t help with expectations, but overall this is not a bad effort at all.
What is It? Well put simply, It can be anything, It knows your biggest fears and uses those to its advantage. Primarily It takes the form of the wickedly entertaining Pennywise the clown, enticing children to become its next victim. The reason It targets children is because they believe, adults lose this ability with age, or so we are led to believe.
In the small town of Derry there is something strange afoot. Children are being brutally murdered and the town seems to be oblivious to the chaos, possibly due to the fact that the same happens every 30 years and they all try to pretend it is a bad dream. A group of 12-year old friends, drawn together because they are all, well, basically losers, are determined to fight back. The cause of the mayhem is It, a monster in the form of Pennywise the Clown (Tim Curry) who is killing at will, unseen by the adults of the town.
|"They all float down here!"|
The gang decide to take on the monster in the sewers under the town and finally kill it, or so they think. They make a pact that should the monster ever reappear they will return to Derry and finish the job. 30 years later, the gang are all summoned back to Derry after Mike, the only gang member to stay in Derry, contacts them all regarding a new wave of murders. Their memories of 30 years earlier have all been washed away but the call from Mike brings many flooding back. The gang return to Derry, their memories increasing minute by minute, and they set about putting an end to It once and for all.
Being a telemovie, and I would suggest a low budget one, the producers have done a reasonable job here. There are some recognisable faces including a ponytailed Richard “John Boy Walton” Thomas, John Ritter and a very young Seth Green, better known for roles as Oz in Buffy and as the son of Dr Evil in the Austin Powers series of films. It is Tim Curry who steals the show though and he seems to be having a bit too much fun playing the evil Pennywise. He is exactly as I and many other readers of the book would have pictured him to be. The rest of the cast are adequate while needing to be nothing more, there are no Oscar performances here. The actors playing the 12-year olds are terrific though, showing the majority of the adults how it’s done. The scenes with the children give a real Stand By Me feel, another Stephen King book made into a superb film that featured a gang of children on an adventure.
The film continuously flashes back and forth from childhood to adulthood, but this is crucial to show not only the regaining of memories but also to demonstrate how they fought the monster the first time around. Although tightly squeezed into a mere three hours, the producers are reasonably true to the book and deliver an enjoyable film.
The only major disappointment is the special effects, which are for the most part incredibly cheap and cheesy but considering the film was made in 1990 and had obvious budget restrictions, this cheapness can be excused. Be warned though, the final series of scenes may cause a giggle rather than a scream. If you have read the book and had to use your imagination, then this might be an idea again where the special effects are concerned. Overall though this is one of the better examples of Stephen King's novels reproduced on the small screen.