BY JAKE JERELE
Two killer clowns. Two groups of kids. Two adaptations of the classic Stephen King novel IT. Which one is better? For me, it wasn’t even close….but don’t let me spoil IT for you.
First up, we invite you to watch our latest SCARE GUY show, where we discuss IT from all angles, complete with interviews from the “black carpet” premier, reviews of the film, and a killer throw-down between Tim Curry’s Pennywise and Bill Skarsgard’s. Watch, download, and subscribe!
Back in 1990, Tim Curry gave a now-iconic performance as Pennywise, the shape-shifting clown entity that stalks a group of “loser” friends, using their own fears against them. Bill Skarsgard played the newer version that just came out this past weekend. Both are good. As a matter of fact, they’re both great. There’s not a character in either film that stands out nearly as much as these two clowns. Buuuuut…..
Which film adaptation is better? Normally, it’s hard to top a classic film, and for whatever reason, the original 1990 IT seems to have cemented its place in pop-culture and horror history. It attempted to tell the entire scope of Stephen King’s book, showing the group of losers in both childhood and adulthood, fighting the horrors of Pennywise in both stages of life. The new version, though, eschews the adult lives of the kids, instead concentrating the story on their youthful battle with the lunatic clown. And, in my never humble opinion, the 2017 version made the right decision…. I really liked it, and I think it leaves the 1990 version in the dust! The 2017 IT is like Stand By Me (another King story) with a darker twist. The older 1990 version seems like a midnight movie that people return to again and again just so they can make up funny lines to yell at the screen.
In full disclosure, I’d never seen the original 1990 ABC mini-siries until last week. Many people I talk to have an almost unquenchable nostalgia for the original IT mini-series and have been haunted by Tim Curry’s Pennywise their whole lives. And after seeing the 1990 IT last week, I gotta tell ya — Tim Curry was great! His Pennywise was the best thing about that version. Since it was my first time seeing the mini-series, though, I wasn’t constrained by nostalgia, which didn’t bode well for this version, because I don’t think that years have been kind to it. The acting is overblown, the special effects are hokey (it was 1990, they could have done pretty good effects if they wanted to…although the TV budget probably limited it), and the adult-to-child-to-adult storytelling style just didn’t work. It exhausted me and my patience. The transitions from adulthood to childhood flashbacks were almost laughable…. I mean, c’mon…. each time one of the adults remembered Pennywise, they’d stare off with despair in their eyes, almost shaking at the thought….
And when it comes to the two versions of Pennywise, I have to give the nod to Bill Skarsgard’s. It’s not that Tim Curry’s version is lacking…. it’s just that it stops being scary. Toward the end, it almost becomes comical. The “final battle” with the 1990 Pennywise is such a weird letdown that I almost thought it was a prank. A joke.
The new film is not without its flaws…. for example, it has way too much “aw shucks” and not enough “aw hell!” In other words, lay off the schmaltz a little and lay on the horror a bit more. But overall, it was pretty great scary film, and I can’t wait for chapter 2!
WHAT ARE OTHERS SAYING?
“For those of us who experienced our formative years in the late ’80s/early ’90s, Stephen King’s It is our eternal nightmare barometer. With the remake’s release, we decided to take a trip back to Derry, Ind. and examine just what was so terrifying about its predecessor.
And…well…not a lot. Don’t get me wrong–the original made-for-TV miniseries has some well-crafted scares and fine performances, chiefly Tim Curry’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown. But there’s a lot of ridiculous poured in. … The film’s ridiculousity isn’t limited to its attempts to frighten the audience. The seemingly totally normal stuff is anything but normal. Like how John Ritter has a phone just hanging from his ceiling like that’s no big deal…Or the film’s endless efforts to seamlessly transition between the child and adult versions of characters making the same gesture to unilaterally hilarious results.” Read full Syfy article here >>>
“Those excited for Warner Bros. prestige Fall horror outing would be wise to avoid revisiting the 1990 TV movie based on the same Stephen King novel in preparation; if you do go chasing that paper boat, you’re in for a disappointment.” Read full Screenrant article here >>>
From CREATIVE LOAFING
“Curry is typically dazzling as the ever-so-creepy clown, and the program does a fine job of establishing the characters during both their childhood and adult years. But the entire project deflates just as it should be building to a crescendo, and the final battle proves to be a crushing disappointment.” Read full Creative Loafing article here >>>