With the dawn of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, we now have a plethora of high-quality content available at the click of a mouse. In fact, there are so many genuinely good shows that it’s becoming difficult to find the time to watch it all – ‘binge-watch’ has entered our vocabulary for a reason.
As a result, it’s easy to watch something like the 1990 TV miniseries It and feel disappointed. I think this is a mistake. When we watch something that we might consider ‘old’, then it becomes necessary to add another layer to our suspension of belief. We should look at it independently, without the knowledge of the myriad other shows we could be watching, all with better effects and bigger budgets. When you turn out the lights and settle down for the show, imagine that this is late-night television, where you have access to only a handful of channels, and the weekly TV guide has guaranteed you a frightful affair.
All of this is not to say that It is on its last legs (although with a remake in the pipeline, perhaps this is the case in the eyes of Hollywood). In fact, there are a lot of reasons why a remake should be done. It was limited by its TV status – it had to be relatively PG in its day, and anyone familiar with the story knows that a great deal of the gore, violence, and true terror was left on the bookshelves. Alongside slightly more liberal TV broadcasting values, technology has come a way since 1990 – special effects are never the panacea for a bad movie, but they can certainly enhance a good story, particularly one with supernatural elements. I’m not ardently against this remake, as I sometimes can be.
Enough about remakes though – whatever you say, this miniseries was a classic that inspired a fear of clowns among a whole generation. Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is still heralded as one of the best in the horror genre, and for good reason. He is both the clown delivering hilarious punchlines and the killer screaming maniacal threats. What is scarier than an unhinged killer of children? An unhinged killer of children that subverts a childhood delight, it seems.
“I’m every nightmare you’ve ever had. I’m your worst dream come true. I’m everything you ever were afraid of.”
– Pennywise the Dancing Clown, It (1990)
The Losers Club is a charming adversary to the monster, both as children and adults. Their fear feels real, and their friendship even more so. Enough time is given to each of the Losers to develop their personalities, and their individual encounters with Pennywise drive their characters even further. As a miniseries adaptation, the chronology works well too – it’s easy to follow our heroes from childhood into adulthood and we understand their strengths and weaknesses before the final confrontation.
I won’t pretend that It is a TV masterpiece, and I would definitely encourage anybody to read the book over watching the miniseries. A lot of the nuances of horror are lost on the small screen, and I’m almost sure that the same will prove true for the silver screen too. However, this is still a strong and original horror flick that stands on its own two feet. There’s a reason that It still has a place in conversations about horror and monsters and nightmares. Take some time to find out why.