Iâ€™m not sure I could possibly think of a movie that better captures the essence of the term Kindertrauma than the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen Kingâ€™s IT directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. (Its only competition may be the theatrical interpretation of Kingâ€™s novel or the mighty book itself). Beyond showcasing Tim Curryâ€™s iconic performance of Pennywise the Clown (which scarred a generation), IT distinctly focuses on the horrors of childhood that one can never quite scrape off their shoe as an adult. Interdimensional, shapeshifting, child-devouring monsters from your past are hard to hurdle I know, but so are abusive parents, sadistic bullies, basic bigotry, physical illness, the loss of a loved one and the simple quiet terror of never quite fitting in. The story of IT is a reminder that no matter how much we may move on with our lives or how â€œwell-adjustedâ€ or successful we become, thereâ€™s no way to fully escape the events that shaped us.
IT is the tale of a group of misfits known as â€œThe Losers Clubâ€ who destroyed an evil entity in their youth which presented itself (mostly) as a hideous clown named Pennywise.
Now adults, living lives of avoidance, dissociation and denial, they are mortified to learn that the monster has returned. Having made a sacred pact long ago, the group returns to their hometown to destroy the creature once and for all. Unfortunately, their adversary knows their every psychological weakness and its powers to exploit them appear to be limitless.
IT: The Miniseries consists of two, roughly two-hour segments (when allotting for commercials). The first part, which focused on childhood events aired on November 18th, 1990 then two days later the conclusion dealing with the modern day adults facing their boogeyman was broadcast on November 20th. Both did exceptionally well in the ratings though the first part is notoriously better regarded with audiences and critics; the final confrontation being deemed a bit of a letdown. IT delivered within its original 192 minutes more genuine, platinum Kindertraumas than could be listed here so, in the interest of space, allow me to list my top five disturbing moments (and please feel free to add your own in the comments):
THE OPENING. The scene in which young Georgie encounters Pennywise in a storm drain is rightfully a classic but Iâ€™m equally freaked by our first glimpse of the clown hiding within some hanging laundry on a sunny day. Moments later he has killed a little girl only a precious few feet away from the safety of her mother and home and it still creeps me out.
THE SCRAPBOOK. Trippy surrealism abounds as the gang watches an old photo of their town seemingly comes to life. Pennywise is at his most terrifying, boldly declaring to the group his evil intentions straight to their stunned faces. To top it all off, his hand reaches out of the photo book like a mad cartoon! Freddy Krueger would be proud.
THE SHOWER SCENE. Having to take a shower after gym is nightmarish enough without the showerheads attacking you and a clown protruding from the drain surrounded by stop-motion effects and grinning like a malice-fueled maniac!
THE CHINESE RESTAURANT. As adults the gang regroup at a restaurant to strategize their survival. The dinner is more than ruined when the dessert appears to be fortune cookies that mutate and dispel cockroaches, crabs, agonizing baby birds (!) and animated eyeballs. Nice job triggering my every food-phobia.
MRS. KERSH. They say you canâ€™t go home again and why should you when you might bump into a kindly old lady who transforms into your deceased abusive father.
AND SO MANY MORE. The â€œTurn Back Nowâ€ balloon, the voices in the bloody sink, the talking skeleton, the possessed pharmacist, the ghost of Benâ€™s father, the werewolf, the mummy, the decapitated head, that darn Eddie Bowers and every single appearance of that wacky jokester Pennywise. Beep! Beep! IT is a giant box of assorted nightmares and indelible images and possibly the most epic made for TV horror film ever made (although, yeah, the king crab climax leaves a lot to be desired. But who cares? You really shouldnâ€™t judge an entire meal on a couple rotten fortune cookies).
NOTE: There is a brand new documentary on the making of IT called PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT and itâ€™s streaming on SCREAMBOX. Itâ€™s an incredibly detailed look at the creation of the miniseries with fascinating interviews with many involved and wonderful tributes to those who have passed. I enjoyed every minute of it and highly recommend IT!
And that cast! How can you beat that cast? So many TV legends. Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Harry Anderson, Tim Reid. Plus horror royalty Olivia Hussey, Annette Oâ€™Toole, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Tim Curry. And the young cast is great too Jonathan Brandis, Emily Perkins, the great Seth Green! All the performances are exceptional.
This is core kindertrauma for me! This may have been the first horror movie I saw as a child. My family had moved to the suburbs of Atlanta in 1992 and, at 4 years old, I sat on the couch with my dad to watch this on TV one Saturday afternoon. I remember it vividly(which may be one of my oldest memories), because my dear, sweet mother said, “He shouldn’t be watching this.” to my dad and he replied, “It’s fine! It’s on TV!” I remember her telling him, “All right, but you have to stay up with him if he can’t sleep tonight.”
Suffice it to say I had recurring nightmares of a clown chasing me down an alleyway while trying to stab me for the next decade or so. That first night I woke up from the nightmare at about 3am and my dad had to do his due diligence and calm the crying 5-year-old down. After that first nightmare, though, I wasn’t afraid of them, anymore. I was hooked! Thank you Stephen King, Lawrence D. Cohen, Tommy Lee Wallace(an underrated director and editor!) and the amazing cast, especially Tim Curry, for starting a lifelong obsession with horror!
what an excellent horror movie to be your very first! After its initial broadcast it was shown a lot on cable over the years and Iâ€™m pretty sure thatâ€™s how so many young folks were exposed to it. Itâ€™s really cool too that the storyline is very relatable to kids, adults or any age group.
And itâ€™s always so great when a kinder trauma transforms into a passion for the genre. I know thatâ€™s exactly what happened to me too!
Definitely check out that documentary if you get a chance. Tim Curry has some great stories!
Just watched this again for the first time since it aired back in ’90. It is on HBOMAX and I’m sure a few others.
One thing that struck me is how much the 1990 production clearly influenced the recent films – everything from camera angles to performances.
I have not read the novel since high school(?) so I had completely forgotten about the sweet ending with the ride on Silver to cure Audra. Ir recalls the sensation of riding your bike when you are a kid, and the sense that you can outrun anything.
I really love the theatrical films too! Glad we have both. Nothing can touch Tim Curryâ€™s performance so itâ€™s probably good they went in a different direction in those movies. The ending with Audra is really touching and adds another example of recovery from traumatic events. That also reminds me that the score by Richard Bells is phenomenal!