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  • Writer's pictureGuy Jeffries

Stephen King's It Review

Probably the most famous TV mini series in existence. The reason I say this is because it was only a two-part series and is usually mistaken for being a film, not even a TV movie. 17.5million people watched the first part on it's day of release which resulted in 19.2million people watching the second part two days later.

Based on the novel written by probably the most famous horror author of our generation if not everyone's, Stephen King. Now, I'm not sure what was more famous first, whether it was the book or the film, but it was first published in 1986, King's 22nd book if you include the ones he wrote under a pseudonym.

Set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, The town's children are plagued by It or, Pennywise as it so proclaims to be called. It being a troll-like shapeshifter that mostly disguises itself as a clown to be a more effective predator to it's preferred choice of prey; children. It's the epitome of evil, spawning every thirty or so years for its feed, using all manner of sinister illusions to lure and maim it's prey.

Our protagonists start off as seven young outcasted children of diverse backgrounds who form a gang together, The Lucky Seven, or The Losers Club. Their friendships being similar to likes of The Goonies, today's Stranger Things and closely related to King's other novel, Stand By Me. I wouldn't be surprised if King drew much of the influence from his own childhood. The majority of the first part, set in the 1960s, focuses on the children and their first horrific encounters with Pennywise, which are mostly them being haunted by their greatest fears and phobias. Though their adult selves are also introduced having the two timelines run parallel to each other, leading to a reunion at the town and the final confrontation.

The late and legendary George A. Romero was set to direct, having actually created a lot of the pre-production foundations for the film but had to stand down due to conflicting with his remake of Night of the Living Dead resulting in Tommy Lee Wallace to take over the project. Wallace is no stranger to the genre directing films like Fright Night Part 2 and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, among a number of TV movies and episodes. He was a protégé of John Carpenter, having worked with him on Halloween, The Fog, Dark Star and Big Trouble in Little China, even meeting his wife, Nancy Kyes on the set of Assault of Precinct 13. Wallace admits not reading the novel until after filming, being completely dependent on the script and King was quite flexible with the rewriting of the parts of his story, however, once he had read the book he felt like he had let the source material down.

It's Tim Curry's Pennywise that really makes this film stand out, placing him among those same icons like Nicholson's Joker, Freddie Kruger and Hellraiser's Pinhead. Though, he isn't in it as much as I would have liked. Rock star Alice Cooper and Malcolm McDowell were also considered for the role for Pennywise. Curry was frightening he was avoided as much as possible on set, though he was initially reluctant to accept the role because of the potential makeup requirements, something Curry found very taxing whilst playing Darkness in Legend, but we're so glad he took the role, because when he does appear, it's chillingly brilliant.

The rest of the cast try their best to mirror their younger alternate selves, or was it the kids that actually pulled it off? Personally the young actors did a better job whereas the adult stars came across too corny, possibly trying too hard. It's a shame as the first part starts off so well with the latter losing much of the character connection and seriousness making it quite anticlimactic compared to the first part. The casting of Ritter as the grown up Ben was probably the weakness, followed by O'Toole's adult version of Beverley.

There was so many clever effects but again, it the first part that really gets the fear across. It was actually groundbreaking for what a TV audience would expect, pushing the boundaries of what we saw in TV movie which undoubtedly explains the 2million extra viewers for part 2. Richard Bellis won an Emmy Award for his score of the series, though there's no real recognisable theme here and maybe there should be.

Overall, as a child, this scared me greatly and would be very much a conversation point when discussing ghost stories and horror films among pals. It's undeniable that it has had some influence on the genre and as for TV films, this was and possibly still it, one of the greatest TV movies ever made.

Running Time: 6

The Cast: 7

Performance: 6

Direction: 7

Story: 8

Script: 7

Creativity: 7

Soundtrack: 4

Job Description: 7

The Extra Bonus Point: 5 for Tim Curry's iconic portrayal of Pennywise.

64% 6/10

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