From the archives: EW's original It review
The 2017 big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s It stars Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, but it was Tim Curry who first terrified viewers as the demonic clown. Below, revisit EW’s review of the 1990 TV miniseries.
Of the Stephen King books I’ve read, It has always struck me as the most amusing. That’s because of its everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach to horror, happily duplicated in this four-hour miniseries. For example, there isn’t just one troubled hero in It, there are seven, including John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Annette O’Toole, and Dennis Christopher. And while it might seem as if there’s only one monster — It itself — this force of evil takes on a variety of forms, from a nasty shower stall (the spigot stretches out of the wall to poke you) to a clown (Tim Curry).
The seven chums have been haunted by It since their childhood in a Maine town. We see a lot of flashbacks featuring child actors in the hero roles, battling and (the kids think) defeating It. But when the brave bunch is grown up and scattered around the country, It returns. The seven must reconvene to kill the darn thing once and for all.
The chief problem faced by director Tommy Lee Wallace is that King’s book takes too long getting the grown-ups back together — we have to see what every character is doing for a living, and what his or her It-inspired neuroses are. This is tedious in both the novel and the miniseries. Once the adults are assembled, though, It features a high level of ensemble acting rare for any horror film.
Will you be scared? Maybe, and I certainly wouldn’t let my young children behold such sights as the severed, talking head in a refrigerator, or the gooey eyeballs falling out of fortune cookies (I have enough trouble getting my kids to eat Chinese food). Of course, eyeballs in fortune cookies are also very funny. The saving grace of Stephen King is that he’s not a solemn, H.P. Lovecraft-y kind of horror writer; he has a sense of humor.
In addition to It‘s slow pace, I found the ending a big letdown — unimaginative special effects animate the monster in its final incarnation. But the cast is terrific, Curry’s cackle is chilling, and King’s usual buried theme — about the pain adults inflict on children without even realizing it (It?) — is always worth pondering. B-