“… I now understand why people regard It so highly when speaking of Stephen King or horror in general.”
Before I start this review, or retrospective, or whatever you want to call it, I want to make sure that it is understood that everything I will be writing form here on out will contain spoilers for It. I’m not just talking about the book, but the story in all forms. As I’m writing this I plan to cover the book (which I have read) and the 1990 miniseries (which I have yet to watch). Both of these iterations of Stephen King’s famous story will be discussed at length, and that means that they will be discussed with the understanding that all parties that are reading this (if there are any) have already experienced It in all forms. If you’ve made it this far and have not read the book, please do so. As I’ve said I have yet to see the on screen adaptation of the story so I can’t really speak to their urgency, but at the very least read the book. If you like Stephen King’s writing, if you like horror, if you like period pieces, if you like coming of age stories, even if you are just looking for something to read; give It a shot.
With that out of the way I feel the need to go over a few things. First of all, this (whatever this is) will be a rather vain look at It; specifically through my eyes. This is the first time I have experienced the story so everything I will be saying from here on out will be my opinions. I’m not trying to be unbiased or anything, I just feel that I need to discuss this story with someone even if that someone is a computer screen onto which I vomit words that nobody will ever read. Anyway I wanted to make it known that even though this was my first time reading It, I was not completely unfamiliar with the story. Sure everyone knows of the iconic Pennywise the clown played by Tim Curry, but there were a few more things I knew just by osmosis. First of all I knew that Its true form was a spider. I heard that on a podcast a few years back if I recall correctly and I looked it up to be sure. And the other thing I knew was a more important point, and that was the fact that at some point all of the kids in the story have an orgy in the sewer. This was a point that I found out when the cast for the new miniseries was announced and a bunch of people on Reddit made the same joke that the girl who plays Beverly in the miniseries doesn’t know what she got herself into. This is the point that I wish I hadn’t known, because I spent the story anticipating it. That being said, it didn’t ruin my experience; but I’ll get into all of that later.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say (if you haven’t guessed it already) is that this “review” or whatever you want to call it is going to be composed of a bunch of rambling. I may be able to edit it into coherent sentences, or I might not be. Either way, you should know by this point what you’re getting yourself into. So if you don’t already have a headache, let’s jump into it.
So right off the bat, I loved the way that Stephen King presented the story in It. First off we get the introduction to the story, little Georgie Denbrough taking his paper boat for a sail down the streets of Derry. This is the first (at least the first that matters for this story) appearance of It. We then flash-forward to the 1980’s and we get It’s “second” appearance. I’m not sure why King chose this seemingly random encounter as the intro to the “future It”, but there it is. This is later revealed as one of the catalysts that trigger Mike to make the six phone calls. Speaking of that, the next part in the book is what drags its claws into you. Six characters that we have yet to meet (save for old Stutterin’ Bill) each get a phone call, and each one reacts essentially the same way. Well, I say the same way but there are varying degrees (RIP Stan). This makes us wonder what exactly happened to these characters, and that is essentially the main theme of the book. We spend the entire book going back and forth from past to present, each trip to the past revealing a little more about what happened to these seven friends, and each trip to the future revealing the same information to the characters themselves. This is a brilliant way to tell a story, and it keeps you enthralled until the last possible second when both climaxes (encounters with It) happen simultaneously so as to not spoil each other. This is one thing that I’m a little worried about with the new miniseries, because I don’t know how they will tell one story (the kids) without spoiling the other (the adults). Anyway, this is something that I was planning on touching on later.
Another writing ‘quirk’ (if you want to call it that) I really liked was King’s use of subchapters. Not only was this a great way to break up the really long chapters that he fucking wrote, but it also gave his writing a rather cinematic feel to it. Let me explain: In miniseriess editors are really the unsung heroes. They make sure that everything flows correctly, and if you’ve ever watched a miniseries and gone “huh, that didn’t feel like two hours”, chances are that was the editor’s doing. You don’t really get this same feeling in books, or at least that’s what I thought. Stephen King manages to create portions of his book that feel so cinematic, it’s like you’re reading a screenplay instead of a novel. The first real instance of this takes place in chapter two of the book, where the story turns into a pseudo crime drama. King manages to create a world that feels so real and alive simply by cutting characters off mid-thought and transporting his readers to other places where more shit is going down. We already know what is being said (especially because King does such a good job forecasting it), so why not use this time to invest the reader further into the story. This technique continues throughout the book usually manifesting itself in really clever ways such as the toughest of our main characters (adult versions) morphing into the actual story of their childhood selves. These changes would happen mid-sentence and once again would immerse you into the story; make you feel what the characters were feeling. The most involved use of this occurs in chapter 19 where it doesn’t just jump from past to present, but it jumps between like 8 different story lines. King manages to write this in a way that doesn’t feel jumbled or convoluted, and actually manages to make everything flow very nicely and also keep tensions high. Whenever one thread is about to reach its climax King switches to the next, when that one is about to reach climax he switches again; this beautiful technique is the closest thing to literary plate-spinning that I can think of.
Another thing that It seems to lean heavily on is tangents. I wouldn’t be lying if I told you that most of this book consisted of tangents, and if you removed them you’d probably cut the book’s length in half. Of course you would also get rid of a lot of what makes this book great, but I’ll go into more detail on that now. The way Stephen King writes it is not unlike the way that I write anything really; he will start a point, go off on a tangent, and much like a child at the beach he will look back and wonder just how he got so far from shore. This isn’t a bad thing, at least not always, because it gives the book added realism as well as gives us context for certain things. For instance, It delves a lot into memories and without these tangents we as readers would be positively lost. The way humans think is very unique, because we essentially have flash-cards in our brains. I can think of one thing, and instantly I’m think of twenty different things that may or may not pertain to that original thing. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that this is hard to convey in writing; but King does a great job of it. One of the best examples I can think of is a part in the book that deals with Patrick Hocksetter. Patrick is a character that we don’t know much of, other than the fact that he sometimes runs with Henry and his gang, but seemingly out of nowhere, as Beverly watches on from the bushes, King takes us into the mind of Patrick. This moment for Bev would be no more than a few seconds as Patrick looks longingly at a fridge that is on the outskirts of the dump, but for us we go on an adventure. We learn that Patrick killed his baby brother when he was young because he didn’t like that his being alive changed his own routine. We learn that Patrick believes that he is the only real person in the world, and that everyone else is just an extension of him; much like when you dream everyone in that dream is just part of your imagination. We learn all of this and it is fascinating. King essentially creates a story within his already unfolding story, and I was enthralled. This gives us, the reader, context into the situation (telling us what kind of dude Patrick is), but it also adds to the realism (not only giving context to his actions, but also making each character feel all the more real). But this tool also has a downside, and that is just how long some of these tangents can be. Now this was never a problem for me when reading the book, I find King’s writing to be engaging enough that I’m never really bored, but in hindsight whenever I look back I sometimes get the feeling of “what was the point of that?”. This feeling is especially present in chapters such as the one that focuses on Stanley Uris’ wife, a character who got really elaborate backstory only to never been heard from again. Once again I wasn’t bored while listening to this, but I had to wonder what the fucking point was. These tangents also have a habit of making you forget what exactly the point was to begin with. For example maybe something intense is about to happen and one of the characters think “Gee, this reminds me of the time when ____”. This sends us on a huge tangent and by the time it’s over, we forget that imminent danger that we were feeling just before this almost annoying interruption. Granted King never interrupts at moments as vital as the scenario I just gave, but my point still stands.
One thing I really need to praise is just how good the writing in this book really is. I’ve touched on this before but fuck it, let’s talk about it again. One thing that amazes me time and time again is King’s ability to write such intense scenes, and have them remain intense to the reader. Of course It is chock full of intense scenes, mainly the encounters with It itself, but there are some other scenes that really stand out to me. The biggest of these being Beverly’s intro chapter where we get to meet the walking piece of shit Tom Rogan. This chapter (or really part of a chapter) is so fucking intense and gut-wrenching that it has to be praised. I understand that one of the themes of the book is that It takes many forms, but seeing Beverly have to deal with this fucker who just wouldn’t quit with her beatings until she was dead was heartbreaking. The fight scene that occurs between Tom and Bev is so intense not because it goes on for so long, but because you’re afraid of what will happen when it stops. Only two outcomes are possible and they both end in death. Every hit that Bev lands you almost want to scream at her to just stop it and let him have his fun, even though you know that it is a disgusting thought to have. You are terrified at the prospect of Tom somehow getting the upper hand and getting revenge on Bev for every injury he has incurred and then some. But in a more general sense, something that It manages to do is scare the shit out of me. Now I’m no tough guy, but it takes quite a bit to scare me. I’m not taking about momentary fear either, I’m talking about “turn the lights off and leap into bed terrified of what may be lurking only a foot below where you’ll be laying down for the next eight hours” fear. It even made me terrified to go into my bathroom because I was afraid that I would hear voices coming from the drain. And the strange thing is, despite his presence being what I wold call lacking, most of this fear came form Pennywise himself. Just the image of a fucking terrifying clown who hangs out in sewers and rips the arms off of little kids creeped me the fuck out, and it stuck with me.
Building off the writing praise, let’s talk about the characters in the book. Stephen King, in my opinion, is best at writing characters rather than scenarios. The scenarios that he writes are engaging because we care so much for the characters, but the characters are the important part in that equation. The characters in It showcase this amazing talent that King has by creating characters that are so real, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that It was an autobiography. Now I could literally go on and on abut how every character is unique in their own way and how when it all comes together it creates this beautiful, realistic painting; but I think that sentence will suffice. What I want to focus on here is the child versions of these characters and how, despite these terribly adult circumstances, King manages to keep their childlike qualities. The story of It is not for the faint of heart, and what makes it all the more chilling is that it is happening to children. You can forget that fact amidst all of the murder and dismembering and terrible imagery, but King has a way of always bringing you attention back to this point. A huge point of It is that children are easier to scare because their fears can be manifested into one image, but they are also the only ones who can survive It because their brains are able to comprehend amazing things and then essentially just forget them. If an adult saw a giant spider crawling down forma ceiling in a room that is miles under the city, their head would probably explode (Hell, Tom Rogan’s head practically did explode), but a kid is able to take strain like that essentially because their brains are malleable. They are able to take in almost anything because they don’t have a firm grasp of reality yet. Anyway this is a major theme of the book so King makes it a point to remind you that the characters were are following are children, and he does this in many different ways. Some of these ways are subtle like the jokes that the kids throw around even though they are essentially staring down the barrel of a gun their entire summer, or their attention span and how it is not the greatest. But some moments are able to take you right out of the story that is being told and thrust you into childhood, putting you in the shoes of every single one of these seven children simultaneously. The moment I’m thinking of is one that takes place right before the rock fight to end all rock fights, it is the tiger hunt. As the Loser’s Club is making their way through The Barrens to the dump, Bill stops them and says he sees a tiger up ahead. This is a moment that immediately brought me to the edge of my seat, thinking that it was one of Its tricks, but it turns out that it is just kids being kids. In the middle of all of this shit they are still able to pull a scenario out of thin air and act it out as though it was reality. Everyone was in on it and that’s what makes it great. In that moment all of the fears of the outside world faded away for both us and the kids, and instead the only thing that mattered was the tiger right in front of them that Richie could have shot had Bill not been in the way. This moment was so candid that I forgot I was reading a book, and instead was transported back to a time when my friends and I would do things that aren’t to dissimilar to what these kids were doing now. I know that it is strange to fixate on one moment and essentially disregard the rest, but to me this moment encapsulates King’s ability to write relatable child characters.
Now we are going to get into the nitty-gritty and come across my first real criticism of the book: the sexual content. Listen, I was a kid once, I know that kids that are just on the near side of puberty think about sex sometimes, not really knowing what it is, but my question is this: Did you really have to put all of that in your book, King? I’m fine with throwaway lines such as Richie and Bill explaining to Eddie what syphilis is and how it is different from leprosy, in fact this part of the book was hilarious, but I draw the line at a couple of “underage” dudes jerking each other off in a junkyard. Like what the fuck dude? Not only is this scene weird because it is essentially rape, these two boys are like 15 years old. You can leave the part about them jerking each other off on the cutting room floor if you know what I mean. Hell even the part where Bev is looking at their dicks curiously is fine, but I draw the line at them jerking each other off. As you can see this part rubbed me the wrong way (pun intended), but it doesn’t stop there. One recurring theme in It is the sexualization of Beverly Marsh, a 12 year-old girl. That’s right, it’s a common theme. I feel like I have to say it again: what the fuck dude? She’s fucking twelve years old man, just let her be twelve years old. I’m fine with each of the group members acknowledging her beauty and having crushes on her, but it should stop there. But it doesn’t because the most egregious sin has yet to be discussed: The sewer orgy. This part of the book is not only uncomfortable, it makes no fucking sense. I will give it to King that he made the fucking of all of these twelve year-olds tasteful (I can’t believe I just had to type that), not going into grave detail, but why include it at all? First of all, the introduction doesn’t make sense. We’re lost in the sewers? Everyone might as well fuck me right here. Why would Bev jump to that conclusion, especially because none of them understands how sex works? Bev claims that her father told her how, but we never get to experience that part of the book. Is that to say that Bev was raped (well maybe not raped, but at least molested)? I understand that a possible reason for why her father was such a piece of shit was because he wanted to fuck her (as eloquently put by Pennywise), but did the relationship ever get that far? And at the end of this orgy Eddie is “calm” so he finally figures out which way to go, but why couldn’t they just hug it out or something? I feel like that would be a more poignant way to end the encounter, all of them just get in a circle, hug each other and cry. It would be like an emotional weight was lifted and they would all have a chance to breathe for once, but nope let’s jump straight to the fucking! And here’s a question: why was this part of the book necessary if literally everyone was just going to ignore it immediately after it took place? It’s like you were embarrassed of what you wrote (understandably so) so you decided to sweep it under the rug by making nobody mention it ever again. This portion of the story just felt like a disgustingly forced “coming of age” where all of these kids were essentially thrust into adulthood by the twisted mind of Stephen King. Once again, I understand that the book is about loss of innocence, but I would say they already lost it by that point. There’s no need to fire another shot if the guy is already dead on the ground, if you catch my drift.
Snapping back to a less perverted world, let’s discuss yet another writing technique that I loved: Mirroring parts of the story and callbacks. It, especially later on the the story, is essentially two stories taking pace at the same time; the adult story and the kid story. It’s no surprise that there would be some similarity there, but the way King throws it into the story makes everything feel preordained (much like what is alluded to by many of the characters). Not only do these references and callbacks make the world seem connected, but it also connects these different story threads and interweaves them in a way that they can’t be told without one another. Let’s start with the callbacks, because I feel that it would be easier to discuss. There are a lot of instances in It that feature many similar phrases or mannerisms that could just be coincidence (I mean, King wrote it all. It wouldn’t surprise me if he just threw some of his own catchphrases in there), but they make the story seem like one continuous piece. One of the first times I noticed this was with the Tim Rogan classic saying “Friends and Neighbours”. This saying was essentially Tom’s way of saying “can you believe this shit”, and it was made firmly his during his introductory chapter. So imagine my surprise when that phrase keeps popping up here and there and everywhere throughout It. Every time this happened this served as kind of a callback or inside joke, and only strengthened the narrative. Another example is Eddie’s mom using the terribly racist expression “jig time”, and then the same expression being used by Mike Hanlon in a later chapter. These “coincidences” start to get more involved when you look at things like the way Richie and Bill’s moms react to how these friends treat each other. Both of them essentially have the same thoughts, not at all understanding their children. These moments escalate into what can no longer be called “callbacks” when they really start to lean into the whole “fate” aspect of the story. Literal chunks of chapters are ripped from the pages of the book and thrust into a later part of the novel, and it always gives you this weird sense of Deja-vu. This is as intended because it is exactly what the characters in the book are feeling as well. The universe (or whatever created the turtle, at least) wants these kids to succeed and is pulling the strings to give them the best odds possible. This is a brilliant tool and really encapsulates the feeling of destiny, while also immersing you in the story.
Speaking of the turtle, let’s talk about just how fucking weird this book gets at the end. It starts off as a story of a bunch of friends having to face the horrors of their town and attempt to put a stop to it, but it ends up being a weird cosmic tale where mind-fucks are the norm. The ending of the book is so fucking different from the rest of it, but much like with my tangent point earlier you don’t notice it while it’s happening. I can look back now and ask myself what the fuck kind of drugs King was doing while he wrote It (even though I know the answer is cocaine), but at the time he acclimated me to the weird like a person dipping one toe into the bath before fully submerging themselves. Now all of this cosmic shit is cool and all, but part of me missed the simplicity of a bunch of kids getting into rock fights, building dams, and every once in a while seeing a creepy clown or a leper who wants nothing more than to suck your pre-pubescent penis. All of this simplicity is traded for talk of the turtle and It, and the other. We learn about the dead lights, there are giant spiders, really everything just goes out the window. Once again this part of the story isn’t bad, but it’s a big fucking step in a different direction.
Luckily the book comes back with what might be my favourite part: the final interlude. Mike Hanlon sits patiently in a hospital bed, and what follows might be one of the saddest things I have ever read. Everyone is forgetting about the atrocities that plagued Derry, the ones that they had to fight face-to-face, but with that comes the fading memory of each other. They struggle to remember names, faces, and even things as characteristic as Eddie’s asthma. This part of the book is so sad to me because after everything these characters went through together: fighting a werewolf, fighting a spider, fighting Henry Bowers, fighting the urge to have sex in a sewer (they lost that fight), they are all going to forget one another as if all of it meant nothing.
I don’t want to diminish the works of others but the reason the 1990 It miniseries is still talked about is because of Tim Curry’s wonderful performance as Pennywise the dancing clown. Without this performance (which really is as good as everyone says it is) the miniseries would fall apart. We’ll get into this performance later, but first let’s start with the broad strokes. It was a television miniseries form the 1990’s and it took the Stephen King story and split it into two 90-minute ‘episodes’. These episodes are pretty evenly split between the adult and child versions (much like the book), but you can see the story favour the adult side of things in the second episode. So let’s talk about the story, first of all. It, as you could guess, features quite a few changes from the book of the same name. This is due, in part at least, to the miniseries being 3 hours, and the book being (roughly) 40 hours. As you can imagine some things had to be shifted around. Let’s start by discussing the small changes; the ones that make no sense. So obviously a lot of plot had to be shifted around or even removed in favour of time, but some things just don’t make sense to me. Let’s call these the “what the fuck?” changes. There aren’t many of these changes, but the ones in this segment really make me say “what the fuck?”, hence the name. First of all, why change the classic saying from “You bet your fur” to “You bet your fern”? Not only does this never get said in the miniseries except for one time (which is really just fan service anyway), but it is literally the same amount of syllables to just say the right thing. And the scene now, instead of being legitimate fan service, just acts a fuel to the fire of articles such as these where losers on the internet such as myself whine about it. Next up we have the name of Beverly Marsh’s husband (or boyfriend, whatever he is in this adaptation) having his name changed from Tom Rogan to Tom Grogan. Now I’m going to be completely honest and say that I’m not sure if this one is intentional, but during one of the scenes featuring Tom someone definitely, without a doubt, says his name is Tom Grogan. If this was a mistake, why not just do another take? Again, it makes no sense to change his name so I’m going to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn’t, but then why not get it right in the final cut of the miniseries? And the final change is one that is pretty big, and that is Richie calling Eddie “Spaghetti Man” instead of “Edds”. Why? Why, oh why did that have to be changed? It makes no difference, so why not just make it the same as in the book? Edds, though annoying to Eddie, is a name that sounds endearing. “Spaghetti Man” is shitty; it’s like something a dumb kid would come up with. I mean, I guess in that regard it’s a good change, but Richie isn’t really a dumb kid. His references are on point (like calling Ben “Haystack”), so he wouldn’t just to something as juvenile a Spaghetti Man as a nickname for Eddie. I’m sure there are other changes I missed, but for now let’s move on to the bigger alterations.
So It had to make a lot of large changes (as I’ve said) but not all of these are bad. A lot of them are, but not all of them. First of all, most of the first encounters with It have been changed. Instead of Richie and Bill riding to the house on Neibolt Street and encountering the werewolf, Richie finds the werewolf in the basement of the school where it grabs him, but then lets him go for some reason. Instead of Eddie meeting the lovely leper under the porch at the same house, he is instead greeted by Pennywise in the shower room at his school after all of the shower heads extend and try to get him wet (I guess?). Instead of Ben seeing the mummy on the frozen lake after school one day, he gets beckoned to by his dead father who is standing in the middle of a swamp, and then a skeleton grabs his foot (I guess they kept something). But of all of these changes, Stan’s is the weirdest. Instead of Stan going into the standpipe and being greeted by two drowned boys, he goes into an abandoned house. Now I don’t think this was necessarily a stand-in for the house on Neibolt street, I believe the filmmakers just didn’t want to move production to a city with a standpipe. So anyway Stan goes into this house and the door shuts behind him (sounds familiar, right?), then something starts down the stairs and as it gets closer we get to see that it’s… the mummy. They could have kept everything about Stan’s first encounter the same, with the creepy music and the two bloated corpses reaching for him, but instead they decided to have Ben’s mummy chase him. So this weird amalgamation is definitely the strangest of the changes to the first encounters, but it doesn’t stop there. The entire child face-off with It was completely neutered in order to keep the spider reveal for the end of the story. This removes a big point of the book which is that Bill was able to “defeat” it as a child, but under the same circumstances as an adult he is worried that It will be too strong. If the two encounters are different then there is no test of faith there. And the lead up to the battle is weird too. Instead of all of the kids being chased into the sewers by Henry Bowers and his gang like in the book, the crew just decide “hey, let’s go kill that thing” as if it is as simple as walking into a sewer and shooting it with a slingshot. Oh… it is that simple? Well colour me impressed. The last change (at least that I’m going to discuss in this paragraph) is one that made the least sense to me, and that is the inclusion of the dead lights in real life. The whole point of It taking the form of a spider is that it is the closest approximation that the human brain can get to it’s real form (the dead lights). But in this iteration of the story, the dead lights exist in real life so what’s the point of the spider?
One of the biggest changes in the story is just how everything is (understandably) shortened. The way that the story is abridged makes sense, but with it comes a lot of smaller issues. First of all, everything is very to the point. We don’t get smaller scenes of characters talking or enjoying life, every single line uttered in this miniseries has a point. Some would say that this is an efficient way to tell a story, but they would be lying if they said that no enjoyment was lost with all of the realism that the book had. One of the biggest issues with this that I had was that all of the characters were boiled down to their simplest forms. They all served a purpose, but that purpose wasn’t as defined as in the book. Obviously Bill was the leader, but that was about it. Beverly was the shooter (with the slingshot), but once again that was about it. All of the other characters kind of fell by the wayside, and even lost a lot of their character traits that they had in the book. One of the most interesting examples of this that I can think of is the scene where Ben meets Eddie and Bill. For those who don’t remember, Ben was chased into the Barrens by Henry Bowers, and then hides leaving Henry to terrorize Bill and Eddie who were building a dam. This sends Eddie into an asthmatic fit, and Bill has to rush to get Eddie more “medicine”. This scene in the book follows Bill, understandably so because Eddie wouldn’t be doing much than lying on the ground unable to breathe; or at least I thought. In this version of the story we follow Ben and Eddie, who is just fine and dandy. Instead of using this time to accentuate this how important (and detrimental) Eddie’s asthma is, Eddie is up and about explaining to Ben the subtleties of Derry and the group that we will come to know as ‘The Loser’s Club’. I had thought that I accidentally skipped a scene until Bill comes racing back with the aspirator, and all of a sudden Eddie is on the ground sucking on that thing like his life depends on it (that sounded very suggestive. Maybe I gave King too much shit on the sex stuff; it’s really easy to write accidentally). This outlines exactly the problem in this miniseries: character traits are only prevalent when they need to be. Take, for example, Bill’s stutter. Completely non-existent in the child-version of the character (where the stutter is supposed to be at its worst). Or Stan who literally get described to the audience as the kid who “…says Oy” a lot. That’s right, the fact that Stan is jewish (despite his family barely practising the religion) is now his defining characteristic to the point where he speaks like an old jewish stereotype. But this shortening really only played into the child portion of It, because this show really focussed on the adult stories. Unfortunately that means losing the impending doom that is Henry Bowers (him being reduced to a run-of-the-mill bully is tragic), and cutting quite a few important scenes (the smoke hole for example). But the good news is that the adult section of this story is a lot better in my opinion.
Now this may be a “chicken or egg” situation, but the latter half of It was a much better production in my eyes, and I think it is due to a few different reasons. First of all the actors are a lot more competent. Now I’m not saying all of the child actors are bad (both Bill and Eddie were portrayed wonderfully), but the adult versions of these characters were pound-for-pound better than their child counterparts. This section still had its changes (one of the bigger ones being that Richie had the encounter with It at the library rather than Ben), but in large it stayed a lot closer to the book than the child portion, and it gave me one of my favourite scenes which is the encounter with Mrs. Kersh. One thing that I will say about the adult section of the miniseries is that it fell into too many 90’s tropes, namely montages. It has quite a few montages and the problem I have with them (despite them being terribly overused) is that it alters the tone of the miniseries drastically. These characters are supposed to be feeling constant dread while in Derry, not having fun riding a bike or eating food. These montages, often set to upbeat music, ruin the tone of the miniseries but also the flow. We interrupt the story that already had to cut a bunch of important shit in favour of what? A watered-down stunt show on a children’s playground? I also disliked how a bunch of the adult intros were changed to favour the new “everything is relevant” dialogue that I mentioned earlier. Ben’s intro was the worst offender of this, but all in all I just wish that they and stayed the same as the book. The way these intros were written were unique (a lot of them not even being from the perspective of the character in question) and they perfectly captured the tone of the story during this shift (the phone calls).
Another change to the main story of It was that Pennywise was changed into a “main villain” in the story. In the book, Pennywise is merely one form of It used mainly as a placeholder. If you see It on the street, chances are it will be in the Pennywise form. Of course we all know that It takes many forms, but not really in the miniseries. I thought I wouldn’t be okay with this, but it worked for a few reason. First of all, it saved having to explain that each bad thing was actually It in disguise. It was a nice visual representation that “the clown” was “It”. It also saved on makeup and effects (which I will talk about later). But most importantly I had no problem with this change because it gave us more of Tim Curry. Tim Curry is far and away the best part of this miniseries, and his portrayal of Pennywise is masterful. The miniseries itself was rather mediocre, but I will return to it again and again if only for Tim Curry’s wonderful performance. The way that Curry was able to keep the comedy that Pennywise exhibits while still keeping the character really terrifying was amazing. It was exactly as I had imagined him in the book (well, except for the Boston accent) and it makes perfect sense that people still reference his performance to this day. Rapping this up I just want to briefly mention a few things that I really appreciated about this miniseries. First of all the makeup and effects were stellar, especially for a television miniseries from the 90’s. Everything from the skeleton that grabbed Ben, Pennywise’s partially melted face, the blood bubble in Bev’s sink, and even the werewolf makeup was wonderful. All of this culminated into what was simultaneous the best and worst part of the miniseries: the spider. This creature is terribly set-up, and the sequence completely botches what is one of the best parts of the book, but I have to give the effects guys props (get it? Props?) because that thing is completely practical and it is magnificent. Sure it doesn’t really look like a spider (why’s it got two arms, man?), but the care and attention to detail that went into crafting is apparent from the first minute that it appears on screen. I also appreciated the stop-motion effects that allowed not only the spider to some to life, but also a few other things like Pennywise stretching the shower floor while terrorizing Eddie or Pennywise sliding down the drain after the first battle with the children. Now of course there are some shitty digital effects too (like the terrible transition from Tim Curry to the stop-motion Pennywise that slides down the drain that I just mentioned), but the sheer number of times that practical was favoured over digital amazes me; and it really gives this miniseries the final boost to stay as relevant as possible in the modern age. I also really liked the nods to the book that It threw in there for the watchful viewers. An example of this would be the guard at Juniper Hills holding a tool of quarters as he threatens an old Henry Bowers. In the book this was explained, but in the miniseries it acts as a nice little nod to those who read the book. Oh and the miniseries got rid of all of the fucking weird sex stuff, so it’s a ‘win’ in my book!
To sum all of this up I guess I would have to say that I now understand why people regard It so highly when speaking of Stephen King or horror in general. The entire reason I got off my ass and finally read the book was because the new movie is coming out soon (tomorrow at the time of me writing this) and I wanted to be able to compare it to the original work (as well as the 90’s miniseries). If you want my thoughts on the new movie I’ll say that I’m a little worried. I initially liked the idea to split the story into two, one following the child story arc and one the adult, but after reading the book I realize it’s not so simple. The way that Stephen King wrote It interweaves the two stories in a way that one really needs the other to keep tensions and interest high. I don’t doubt that the filmmakers will do a good job (I’ve already been hearing some amazing things about the movie), but it is a fear that sits in the back of my mind. Even if this movie is good I don’t know how the second one will fare. All of the cool shit (at least in my opinion) happens to the group when they are children. Any idiot could take the child parts of the story and make a solid movie out of it, but only someone who is really in tune with the source material could bring it home in a sequel that follows the same group as adults. The adult portion relies heavily on callbacks and the characters slowly remembering what happened to them, but all of that is thrown out the window if w already know the story better than they can remember it. This is especially worrisome for the final encounter with It, which acted as a huge reveal in the book. If we get to see the spider and the ritual of Chüd in the first movie, then what will be the pint of the second? A big theme in It is that these characters are being guided by some other-worldly being to defeat It which essentially means that they do the exact same things twice i order to get the same outcome. This is great from a storyteller’s perspective, but does that mean that the second movie will just be a “remake” of the first but with older actors? But really the most important question is: Will this new movie include all of the creepy sex stuff that the book had. ‘Cause I mean, it was really creepy and I don’t know if I can sit in a crowded theatre watching two kids jerk each other off in a junkyard for however long that sequence takes.
Anyway if you want to know my thoughts on the new movie, this piece will kind of be continued in my It (2017) review. So check that out. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.