The IT miniseries first brought Stephen King’s epic horror novel to life in 1990 – here’s what the series did better than the 2017 IT movie version. IT the novel takes place in Derry, Maine, where a shapeshifting creature awakens every 27 years to feast on the town’s children. This creature can take any shape it pleases but is most commonly seen as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. A group of kids who dub themselves The Losers’ Club face Pennywise and win, but must reunite as adults to stop it once and for all.
George A. Romero (Night Of The Living Dead) was originally set to direct a miniseries based on IT, which would have run for eight to ten episodes. Once Romero left, it was decided to condense the story to two parts. Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season Of The Witch) directed the IT miniseries, with Tim Curry making for an unforgettable Pennywise. The series was a huge success with the first half, in particular, receiving acclaim. That said, even fans agree the second, grown-up Losers portion of the miniseries is a disappointment, particularly the finale where Pennywise transforms into a rubbery spider creature that’s easily defeated.
Fittingly, Pennywise would return 27 years later for the movie version of IT in 2017, where Bill Skarsgard played Pennywise. The Andy Muschietti movie chose to adapt the childhood section of the novel first and update the setting to the 1980s. IT was a huge hit, with 2017 overall proving to be a strong year for horror with movies like Get Out and another King adaptation Gerald’s Game. IT is a solid horror movie with a great cast and genuine scares, and while it’s the better version overall, the IT miniseries still handled some elements better.
Firstly, enough praise can’t be heaped on Tim Curry’s Pennywise. After a nightmarish experience using prosthetic makeup on Ridley Scott’s Legend, Curry decided to play the evil clown with more simple makeup, which was an inspired choice. The actor is simply terrifying in the part, switching between childlike innocence and sinister in a heartbeat. While Skarsgard also did a great job the movie often resorted to CG or other effects to make the character appear scarier, while the IT miniseries just let Curry do his thing. The scene with Pennywise tempting Georgie in the storm drain is arguably one of the scariest sequences in any King adaptation.
The IT miniseries can seem a little cheesy to modern eyes – especially the werewolf and mummy scenes – but it was better able to cultivate an atmosphere of suspense and dread too. The IT movie relies on jump scares and music stings to unsettle audiences, while Tommy Lee Wallace’s slower-paced series allows tension to build longer before the payoff. While the grown-up Loser section will be tackled in IT: Chapter 2, the flashback structure of the miniseries is a very effective way of linking the young Losers to their older counterparts, which helps with the transition in the second half.
In the end, both the IT miniseries and IT movie are strong adaptations of the classic novel, and while they both have strengths and weaknesses, true fans should experience both.
- IT Chapter Two (2019) release date: Sep 06, 2019