I've been on vacation with my family. My mother loved the Stephen King novel IT. She mentioned several times that she wanted to see the mini-series, even though I discouraged her. However, I finally gave in (okay, she didn't have to push too hard) and spent the $7. I might have paid too much.
I haven't seen the entire mini-series in years. I was startled to discover just how good it is! "This thing still bites," I said. The first half is excellent. I find the scenes with the children over the top scary. When the clown in interacting with children, their fear is very real. But then something really bad happens -- and it's not Pennywise -- it's part 2. All of it.
Part 2 should have been the stronger part, since it not only contains Pennywise's defeat, but well known actors take the stage. These are people who, by 1990, had plenty of time to hone their craft. But they were terrible! The show sinks into melodrama. Scenes that should scare, get a laugh. When Pennywise makes bad things come out of the fortune cookies, it's just flat out funny. In fact, not once does the second half of IT produce a scare of any kind.
There is something sincere in the children's portrayals, and something quite plastic about the adults. Interesting how young people who did not have the time to learn to pretend brought the real deal to the small screen.
The second half fails to produce any real drama, romance or tension. The viewer is not left wondering if Pennywise will live or die. In fact, by the time we get to the final battle with the monster, we've lost so much interest in these characters that it would be just A-Okay if the monster did take them down.
My favorite scenes:
- The attack at the beginning of the show. The girl playing on her trike, then you see a clown through the hanging cloths on the cloths line, then just a knocked over trike with the wheel still spinning -- outstanding!
- Pennywise and Georgie. This is great stuff because it's so scary. Everything about the scene is perfect. Georgie scared of the dark basement; the rainy day; the boat floating in the drain; and that clown. The scene is so good, it leaves you talking to the TV. "Don't do it, Georgie! Run!" But his brother made him that boat, and your heart just goes out to the little guy.
- Pennywise and Bev. When Bev hears the children's voices coming from the drain, I think that is down right spooky. Worse, when the balloon explodes with blood all over the bathroom, it seems a little silly at first -- until she realizes her father can't see the blood! She is a quick thinker and tells her daddy it was only a spider that scared her.
- Stanley's suicide, with the word IT written in blood in the bathtub. My mom thought the scene was reminiscent of Psycho, where Janet Lee slides down the shower wall and you see a trail of blood.
- The scenes with the scrap book are kinda fun. I like it when the thing drips blood, or when the pictures from back-when comes to life with Pennywise taking center stage.
Least favorite scenes:
(Please keep in mind that this does not mean I disliked the same scene's in the book. In fact, often these were scenes I thought rocked in the novel and was saddened they were not brought to life with any zeal.)
- The attack on Pennywise at the end.
- Bill's final ride on Silver. Great in the book -- not so great on TV. Because, of course, if your ride fast enough on a bike, people come out of their monster-induced coma.
- Library with blood balloons. Seriously? And, only the Loosers Club is supposed to see the balloons, or Pennywise for that matter -- but there is a lady in the scene who definitely jumps when the balloon pops.
- . . . this list can get too long and critical. You get the idea.
My favorite stupid line: Adult Bev to Ben, "Why is IT so mean?" Why is it so mean? WHY IS IT SO MEAN? BECAUSE IT'S A MONSTER! They don't make nice monsters in Derry, you have to go to Mayberry for that one!
The show authenticates a small town circa 1950's so well, it makes the stuff with the children more believable. You get the feeling this really happened back then.
I was a Knotts Berry Farm with my family this week when a quartet came into the Johnny Rockets there and asked if they could sing for us. Sure! Their song? "It's alright." Same song used in the movie during the dinner scene. (The group was The MoonRays)
Final thought: There isn't much they can do on screen that beats what Stephen King can do with a typewriter.