Stephen King’s IT (1990): An Adaptation that Floats on Aged Waters — A Gehenna Post Review

Greetings from the Ether,

Earlier, we reviewed the novel of Stephen King’s IT, as a part of our review series leading to the release of the new film tonight. Now we present to you our review for the 1990 miniseries. Engraved in our memories as frightening at the time, let’s see how well it floats against modern tides.

Still from IT (1990)

Often as is the theme in the original novel by Stephen King, we forget things from our childhood, or don’t remember them the way they actually happened. Nothing truer can be said about the 1990 miniseries of IT that went on to launch clowns into a new tidal wave of phobias amongst children. Ask anyone who was a child when this miniseries first aired, and they will tell you that their memories of the two-episode stint are ones of fear and often extreme terror.

Upon a second–more importantly, recent–viewing, it is clear that our minds when we were younger did not hold the same level of keen understanding that they do now. With the frantic leaps in computer animation and special effects, the miniseries does not hold up in the way that our memories would deceive.

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Still from IT (1990)

Beyond the now campy effects and overly dramatic acting, there are many facets of the miniseries that are problematic, especially for readers of the novel. The miniseries not only takes its own creative liberty with events in the story arc, but it also completely forgets the emotional punch of the most important aspect of the novel: growing up. The miniseries haphazardly skims over entire chapters, leaping back and forth into scenes entirely made up for the sole purpose of the small screen, and often confuses the main characters with one another.

The characterizations of each member of the Losers Club appear as a half-remembered dream would; hazy and unclear people with motives that are, at the least, questionable. Key aspects of the novel are utterly forgotten and the very traits that made the Losers who they were are either entirely left out, or lazily skimmed over and forced as if the writing of these aspects were included for the mere purpose of necessity.

Still from IT (1990)

Yes, it is difficult to criticize such a loved cinematic experience, and to hold it to the expectations of the novel’s masterclass storytelling, but we must be clear that many of the primary flaws of the miniseries are ones that don’t honor the source material in any way whatsoever. Besides a fantastic performance from Tim Curry, the miniseries holds little breadth with the original work by Stephen King. IT presents the same feeling during the experience that a forced adaptation would, one that was made for the mere intent of making money.

While the first part of the miniseries had a few highlights and some memorable creepy scenes, the second half feels more rushed than the first. Uninteresting and overly dramatic performances float past our memories, as this portion of the two-parter is completely forgettable. Once again, it is hard to critique a film so loved, but we encourage anyone to revisit the miniseries who hasn’t in a few years. Especially if you have read the novel.

Still from IT (1990)

What made Stephen King’s IT one of the greatest novels of the past 50 years was its ability to capture the wonder of childhood and friendships, while providing a spectacular insight to what it means to be an adult. The 1990 miniseries completely ignores these essential themes and instead utilizes cheap scares and miscast, badly written characters.

We can only hope that the 2017 remake will float better with time, and that the new Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård, can live up to the iconic performance from the phenomenally talented Tim Curry.


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Make sure to check out our review of the novel, and follow us on social media. Thanks for stopping by!

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