My love of horror came at a young age, and from where I’m not quite sure. Perhaps it was that my parents never allowed me to watch horror movies, so naturally I wanted them most. Eventually, of course, I found my way to them, and the thrill I experienced from being scared was something I simply couldn’t get enough of. And one of the most memorable and haunting movies of all that I discovered when I was younger, was “Stephen King’s It”.
You’ve heard of it I’m sure. A dark presence in a small town takes the form of a sinister clown every thirty years and feasts on young children, using their most horrible nightmares against them. “You all taste so much better when you’re afraid”, says the evil clown memorably. Most frightening of all is the unspoken sickness that plagues the town, a sickness that keeps most everyone but the children from seeing the clown and all he does.
The film caused me to rethink my trips to the shower and look twice before I washed my hands in the sink. For years it’s haunted me.
Until I watched it again the other day. Sadly, the film isn’t holding up very well.
And it’s so hard to admit this, for I’ve held the film in such high esteem for years. I put it on the top of my list for scariest movies, and I fought to keep it on the Top 20 Scariest Films of All Time. But I have to be honest with myself, for the sake of the film, and for the sake of the movies out there that are still genuinely scary.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The concepts behind the film are chilling to the bone. A killer clown that takes the shape of your worst fears, using them against you to drive you out of your mind before he violently murders you, and the worst part is that you’re likely the only one that can see him! Now that’s horror, my friends. And Stephen King’s novel of the same name is filled with wonderfully chilling layers about small towns and the unspoken darknesses that we all know of but can’t quite put our finger on. It’s all rather brilliant.
However, it just didn’t translate well to film. This mini-series from the early 90’s had a cast of talented actors, but they sadly come across as overdone or flat-out cheesy. Too many of the scenes play like high-level soap operas to garner true respect and believability. Some are downright hard to watch.
The special effects have not aged well either, in our tech-savvy world where what’s fresh and advanced today will be obsolete with the next software update. Bad green screen keying and mediocre stop-motion bring the viewer out of the horror and have us simply asking why what we’re watching looks so fake.
The script, while written well for what it is, is still simply too fast paced to allow the characters and the story to really develop in a way that could leave a lasting impression. So much is left up to our imaginations that we feel we’re missing another two parts of what’s already a two part film. Spreading the story out over four parts would have benefited the film greatly.
“Stephen King’s It”, while beautifully filmed and still having some horrific scenes, is clearly not as eternal as its haunting antagonist. The film does just enough to make it out of this review with a positive rating, but just barely.
Knowing the masterful material that the script was based upon, I’m greatly anticipating seeing the two-part feature film remake of “Stephen King’s It”, just as soon as Warner Brothers can get it into production.
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Stay scary, my friends.