Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stephen King's IT (1990) - Part 1

Hey, you! Stop right there! Don't click away from this page! Because this...this will be a review you want to read. A review fit for the kings and other important people. If you don't believe me, just keep reading. You won't be disappointed.

Stephen King's It was a 1990 TV movie that aired in two parts, mostly because the original novel it was based on was thick enough to break a person's leg if you dropped it on them. Which, I'm told, was the main reason so many known mafia associates were flocking to bookstores in the 80s – to get that fucking book and kill people with it. You might not find any sources for that, but I did say it, and I'm on the Internet. So it must be true.

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: John Ritter, Tim Curry, Richard Thomas

Co-written with Tony.

But now I'm just rambling – which is, strangely enough, exactly what the movie does. So really, it's okay if I just keep going on and on without ever actually telling a coherent story. I'm also going to split the review into two parts, just like the TV movie was split into two parts when it originally aired. Isn't that how these movie reviews have always worked? I write them solely based on what lazy jokes I can throw in just to parody the films in a weak manner. It's just my style, man.

Stephen King's IT was a movie I had not seen in full since I was 14. I'm in my 20s now, but this movie, I saw in middle school immediately after I had finished the book. In a way, I think this was the first major disappointment of my life in terms of movies. This was the threshold I crossed, guys. It was my coming of age.

We start this crap fest off with Bill Denbrough, a writer who has a very hot wife who keeps pressuring him to go places with her, but Bill is too busy writing in his bedroom. This scene is great because all it's missing is for Bill to muse to himself, “Man, I wish I was as good a writer as Stephen King.”

Then they have dinner and he says he doesn't want to go to London with her. This is immediately followed by him getting a call from his old friend Mike, who tells him in an ominous way that “it's happening again,” which prompts him to immediately start packing his bags to leave for his hometown, Derry.

"What do you mean you want donations because I went to college there?!"

OK, that was a lot of information. Let's recap exactly what just happened: Man tells his wife he doesn't want to spend time with her, sort of blowing her off in general. Then the next second, he gets a phone call from a man he admits he hasn't seen in 30 years, and he's rushing out the door.

I'm sorry, what's that sound? Yes, I do believe it's divorce papers shuffling about!

Then we get a long rambling flashback that shows Bill and his brother Georgie as little kids. Bill is sick in bed while Georgie is suiting up to go play outside with a paper boat. Oh the good old days when kids could go outside and do this. Nowadays, you get shot by the police if you do something like this.

Tsk tsk, what a young hoodlum.

Anyway, Georgie meets Pennywise the Clown, who hangs out in the sewer. If this is all sounding a little too much like Sesame Street on really bad acid, I'd forgive you. As Georgie is apparently a complete idiot, he stays there and talks to the clown for several minutes. Well, I'm sold: he deserves whatever happens to him now.

It's just one of those sewer clowns. You know, the ones that were popular in the 50s...

What follows are some truly strange scenes showing Bill going into his little brother's room and finding a bleeding book on the ground – I dunno, something about this scene just doesn't work when you set it in broad daylight with bright pastel colors. It just doesn't come off as scary.

Get that fucking ketchup off the book, you slobs.

His parents also scold him for coming in there and tell him angrily never to enter his brother's room again. Because, apparently, this is how people act in the bizarre, lopsided world of Stephen King's IT! Yes, how dare you mourn your brother? Only WE, the PARENTS, can have THAT privilege, silly knave boy!

Then we flash back to present day Bill, who looks dazed, like someone just spiked his orange juice. What's that? You forgot we were even in a fucking flashback? Me too, don't worry. The way this first part of the movie is told is just so bad, pacing-wise. You get a few minutes of the characters in their adult lives, then a 15-minute flashback of them as kids. I get what they were going for here, for clarity and conciseness sake, but it's sloppy as fuck and doesn't end up very engaging when that formula is repeated five times in a row.

One of the others is Ben Hanscom, played here by the late John Ritter. Well, he wasn't the late John Ritter when he was making this movie. I mean, it's not like they took his corpse and just painted open eyes over his closed ones and used a shitty voice-over or something. That's crazy that you would think that's what I meant.

I just had to clarify that.

Anyway, Ben is an insane man who tells his dates how fat he used to be as a kid, which I guess is a real aphrodisiac for some of these women. I wonder if he seeks them out based on the "I used to be a fat kid" fetish? It's also especially weird because it isn't like he's that skinny now. He just has money, and used that as a way to not feel fat anymore.

In his flashback, we find out that he was immediately targeted as a kid by the 17-year-old bullies who have been held back apparently most of their whole lives in the same sixth-grade class. They're super realistic bullies who like to do normal bully things, like holding knives to kids' stomachs and literally threatening to cut them wide open.

Oh, kids will be kids.

In the book, this was a legit plot thread and came off as scary. Here it comes off as hacky and goofy, without any kind of sense to it. But don't worry, there's all kinds of other terrible things going on, too!

Like, really, do we need a subplot about the woman in the group, Bev, dealing with an abusive husband? It's as contrived and shitty as any abusive spouse plot from this time period. I know it's a realistic thing that happens to people, but the way it's done here is so bad. Most old movies like this never really had nuance or subtlety to these plots, and didn't present them as a way to get to know a character. Instead, most of them are just really hacky ways to give women something to do. “Yeah, being abused is a problem women can have.” Go fuck yourself, movie.

But don't worry, this movie doesn't let you forget that above all else, it's a cartoon made for children who ride the short bus. Like look at how she “escapes” him finally: she throws a makeup container at his head, he falls on his ass and she runs out the door. He just screams at her to come back, because yeah, I'm sure she's gonna do that now.

"I'm really commanding a lot of respect right now!"

Then we get a flashback sequence, where her father smacks her around a bit, too. She runs away from him as well, and he shouts at her to come back, too, and doesn't ever actually chase her. Are all the men in this chick's life just vampires who can't venture outside or else they'll burst into flames? Jesus Christ. I don't know why she even puts up with the abuse. If she steps outside the door for a second, they won't be able to follow – it's foolproof. These guys aren't anything to be afraid of, they're total wimps.

So I know everyone who saw this movie when they were younger than 10 is officially Afraid of Clowns (TM) for life. But honestly, there's nothing to be afraid of, and I'll prove that to you. I guess we'll start at the beginning, in which the movie decided it really had to show us the essential “little boy in the showers alone” scene. Yes, I can see why this had to be in the fucking movie...

It's for artistic integrity, we swear! Then again, it's not the worst child sex-related thing related to Stephen King's IT...

Then the shower heads start moving around following him, but that frankly isn't that weird. This will be in our Jetsons-style future in a few years, anyway. But then the clown shows up, and while Tim Curry IS having a lot of fun here as the clown, it just isn't that scary. He pops up out of a Bugs Bunny-style hole in the ground and just kind of hams it up. It's literally like a cartoon. There's no way an adult could find this nonsense scary.

Those are actually Tim Curry's real teeth, by the way.

BUT... I guess it could be scary if you want to imagine that it's actually Jared Fogle dressed up in clown makeup. There you go. I made IT scary again for you. I am a fucking genius.

Just in case you forgot what he looked like.

But the characters never thought it was passe or old hat. Take a look at Stan, the one guy in the group they haven't bothered to show as an adult until now. Why IS that, you might be wondering? Well, it's because when Mike Hanlon decides to give him a call, his immediate response is to go upstairs and kill himself in the tub. His wife comes up and finds him in the most drawn out and ridiculous way ever, dropping the beer she's holding and letting out a scream more befitting of a terrible and cliché horror movie than anything else.

Oh, wait.

Come back here for the second part of this in a few days! It gets so much worse!

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