Stephen King's It (1990)
Stephen King's It Plot Synopsis:In 1960, a group of social outcasts who are bullied by a gang of greasers led by Henry Bowers are also tormented by an evil demon who can shape-shift into a clown and feed on children's fears and kill them. After defeating the demonic clown as kids, it resurfaces 30 years later and they must finish it off as adults once again.
Stephen King's It (1990) Review
I remember watching a Stephen King movie marathon with some friends in middle school. The marathon included The Shining (1980), the hilariously awful The Langoliers (1995), and the haunting yet uplifting It (1990).
We got candy, gathered at a friend’s house, and left our bikes scattered all over his lawn. It was the last movie to be shown in the marathon. The bulk of us passed out during The Langoliers, something about a movie where nothing happens tends to put hormonal pre-teens fast asleep. But, a couple of us stayed up for Part 1 of It, and a couple of us were terrified.
Stephen King’s It takes place in one of the author’s favorite fictional towns, Derry, Maine. In Derry, we are introduced to a group of young outcasts that team up and become great friends, so much so that they don the name given to them by the school bully, The Losers Club. They do typical kids things like, go to the movies, throw rocks, and attempt to kill an inter-dimensional murdering being. This inter-dimensional murdering being also happens to take the form of a clown known as Pennywise.
But, just like any Stephen King story, it doesn’t stop there. It also takes place 30 years in the characters’ future. After a string of incidents mirror patterns established by Pennywise, the one member of the group that stayed in Derry, Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid), calls the group back together to fulfill a promise they kept. The promise, to kill Pennywise the Clown if he ever came back. The story jumps back and forth from the present to past, displaying the many horrors caused by Pennywise.
Truthfully it’s really hard to critique this movie. Everything makes sense. There’s never a point where I thought, “Wait? When did that happen?” The structure is clear, and the character motivations are well established. But, along with this clear structure and character motivations, the element of surprise diminishes.
It is very predictable (Yes, I know. You read the book, of course, it’s predictable). Every scare is telegraphed and all the actions of the characters are obvious. The movie itself isn’t directed too well, it looks pretty cheesy at times, and the acting, for the most part, is subpar even for a TV movie.
So why didn’t I want to turn it off? Why didn’t I groan and roll my eyes through its entirety?
Well, there’s a couple of reasons.
One, Tim Curry KILLS as Pennywise. Every scene he’s in, even if it’s just his voice, he steals. This movie is his, he owns it. If he doesn’t legally own it, he should because no one’s watching this to see Richard Thomas stutter and Harry Anderson tell yucks. You may be asking yourself, “Who’s Richard Thomas and Harry Anderson?” And you’d be right for asking. You turn this movie on for Tim Curry. He’s a legend, and he makes the 3 hours run time worth it.
Two, you know the ending, but you want to see how it plays out. You know who will win in the long run; you even know how they will win. But, something about this movie makes you invest and stick in for the long haul. I attribute this to the story, not necessarily the writing, but the story.
At its base level, It is a coming of age story. We watch a group of kids take on a seemingly impossible task over one summer, which is pretty much the blueprint for all coming of age stories. Maybe the task is getting a kiss from the popular girl, or discovering something important about yourself that will shape you for the rest of your life, or in It’s case, killing a child murdering clown and making lifelong friends in the process. We’ve all had a summer or two that marked a change in our life. Mine was when I managed to move to New York and not become homeless. Anyway, the point is that the story is relatable, and that’s only half of it.
We also see the kids now as adults band together again to take on Pennywise. In the process, they regain their memories of both the good and horrific times in Derry. Eventually, we all move from our hometown, hopefully. When we make this move, our hometown becomes a time capsule. Holding all those memories that shaped us into who we are. We may not think about these memories much, but when we come back home for the holidays, or to kill a clown, all those memories come rushing back.
Again, a relatable story.
My only problem is the way the memory loss is explained in the movie. The further a character gets from Derry, the more their memories fade. It’s a sort of supernatural element that I feel takes away from the emotional struggle within each character. What’s more interesting? Characters were having their memories wiped when they leave their hometown, or for them to suppress their memories and avoid things that trigger them out of fear?
Basically, I like the meaning behind the characters losing their memories, but I dislike the way it was handled. Small gripe.
So, I’ve given two reasons why It is a good movie, Curry’s performance and the relatability of the story.
But, what about the movie has faded and made it, at least for me, more of a nostalgia piece than say The Shining or Carrie (1976)?
It’s corny. Really corny.
The middle school me didn’t laugh at this movie, I acted like I wasn’t scared and stared at the ceiling when I attempted to sleep. Other than Pennywise’s wisecracks, please don’t send me to critic hell over that, there was nothing funny about this movie when I was 11.
Watching it now, there’s a lot to laugh at. Overall the production quality is a step above a Goosebumps episode. It definitely looks like it was made for a TV movie budget, which it was so you couldn’t knock it that much. But, now that I’ve been spoiled with amazing cinematic quality TV shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld, it’s hard to see It as anything but a cheesy 90s TV movie. The dialogue is flooded with excess exposition, I’ll refer you to the Chinese restaurant scene as an example, the camera work is clearly restricted by the budget, and again the acting is merely passable bordering on cringeworthy.
Stephen King’s It, although filled to the brim with cheese, is still a good movie with a compelling story and an amazing performance by Tim Curry. If you’ve got 3 hours to kill, grab a friend, rip open a bag of popcorn and take a trip to Derry.
Some may consider It to be a horror classic; I consider It to be a corny ole fun time. Either way, you’re going to have fun with this movie. You can laugh at it, you can be frightened by it, but you can never hate it.
3 Blood filled balloons outta 5
- Stephen King's It Rating Scores
- Our Score: 6
- Overall Score: 6.25
- IMDB: 6.9
- Rotten Tomatoes: 5.6
Related Article: Stephen King's IT (1990) Kill Count Videos
About Stephen King's It 1990
Runtime: 192 minutes
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Mystery, Fantasy
Total Avg. Votes: 99,561 MPAA Rating: R
Stephen King's It Writers: Stephen King, Tommy Lee Wallace, Lawrence D. Cohen
Stephen King's It Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Country: USA, Canada