[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 1 – It (1990)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Cast: Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Annette O’Toole, Tim Reid, John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Tim Curry

Screenplay: Tommy Lee Wallace, Lawrence D. Cohen

192 mins. Rated TV-14.

 

Ah, another October is here. And so we begin the 31 Days of Horror…come along with me.

The 2017 film It is based on the novel by Stephen King, but twenty-seven years ago, there was a miniseries movie event also based on the novel. A very popular and memorable miniseries, one wonders if it holds up.

It’s 1990, and there’s been another child murder in Derry, Maine. Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid, By the Grace of Bob, TV’s Sister, Sister) arrives on the scene, and he’s now fully aware that It is back. He reaches out to his friends from childhood, some he hasn’t spoken to in 30 years, to see if he can get them to come back to Derry. Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson, A Matter of Faith, TV’s Night Court) has become a successful comedian, but when he speaks to Mike, he knows he must go home. Eddie Kaspbrak (Dennis Christopher, Django Unchained, Queen of the Lot) hasn’t changed much in 30 years, still living with his mother, but he feels compelled to go back to Derry. Beverly Marsh (Annette O’Toole, We Go On, TV’s Smallville) has become a big player in fashion, but her childhood pain has taken a new form in partner and lover Tom. Ben Hanscom (John Ritter, Sling Blade, TV’s Three Company) has lost the weight as well as his self-respect, but his love for Beverly drives him back. Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas, Anesthesia, TV’s The Waltons) may be a successful novelist, but his regret for the death of his brother Georgie has followed him all his life. Stan Uris (Richard Masur, The Thing, Don’t Think Twice) isn’t sure he’s ready to face It again. The Loser’s Club must all go back to Derry, together, in order to finally put a stop to It, a creature that has inhabited Derry for hundreds of years, often taking the form of a dancing clown named Pennywise (Tim Curry, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Axel: The Biggest Little Hero).

The novel this miniseries is based on is a massive tome, and to fit all of it into a three-hour-runtime is a huge feat, but director Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Vampires: Los Muertos) manages to hit the most important notes on his way to the finish line, but the troubles of a television miniseries movie in the 90s didn’t allow the meat of the novel to be shown. The performances are as good as the script, which again, hits all the plot beats but doesn’t give enough time to any of the characters to really flesh them out. It’s a nice experience if you’ve read the novel, but it just doesn’t give enough to viewers.

Tim Curry’s work as Pennywise is exemplary, however, and is the biggest reason this film has stayed so popular over so many years. His playfulness as Pennywise turns on a dime to become menacing and frightful, and it just works so well. It’s a shame, though, that he just doesn’t have a lot to do in the film.

There’s a lot of talk about both incarnations of It and how the adults are/will be portrayed, and what I don’t get is how much time in the miniseries is given to the adults. For a large amount of the book, the adults are relegated to second-tier status and framing devices to allow for the youth stories to be told. That’s why I don’t understand why the adults get roughly 60% of the screen time in this film. Sure, they are important, but the kids are much more so to the character and plot of the film.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong in It, but the movie is kind of plain. It just isn’t scary. Tim Curry’s terrific performance just can’t save the film, and it just wasn’t going to work as a television presentation. Having seen the 2017 film, I can tell you that it does work as a film (I cannot speak to the 1997 Indian adaptation Woh, but that’s for another time), but on TV, It loses all of its teeth.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 31 – Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

 halloweeniiiseasonofthewitch1982a

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy

Screenplay: Tommy Lee Wallace

98 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, here we are again, at the end of it all. I had another great season, and I hope you did too.

halloweeniiiseasonofthewitch1982c

So today, we will look back on, arguably, the strangest Halloween entry, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. As you may be aware, this is the only film in the series to not feature Michael Myers, and the story behind the film is incredibly interesting and perhaps too ahead of its time.

Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins, Lethal Weapon, Drive Angry) takes an interest in the mystery surrounding his newest patient, Harry Grimbridge, a local shop owner who was attacked and left for dead. After meeting and sexing Harry’s 20-something daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin, Bullets Over Broadway, Everything’s Relative), who joins him on his quest, Dan discovers that the attack is linked to Santa Mira, California and Silver Shamrock Novelties, owned by the very rich and unusual Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy, RoboCop, Fail-Safe). As he digs deeper into the odd happenings of Santa Mira, Dan and Ellie discover that the link between Harry’s attack and the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks that are sweeping the nation.

Now, let’s discuss the story behind the story. So John Carpenter and Debra Hill had just finished Halloween II, and they had no interest in continuing the story. From their point of view, the story was done. But when pressured by Universal Studios, they came up with a rather interesting idea: make Halloween an anthology series with a new installment each year centered around the holiday but telling a different story. They brought in Tommy Lee Wallace and crafted Halloween III: Season of the Witch. When the film was released, it was panned because everyone went to the theater expecting to see Michael Myers. It was upsetting for fans of the slasher, and the film’s poor reception put the Halloween franchise on hold for six years.

halloweeniiiseasonofthewitch1982b

So is Halloween III really that bad? Not terrible, but it has some problems. A convoluted plot, masked in confusion and the occasional scare, but it relies more on the eerie presence that the setting conveys. I enjoy the film a lot more after knowing the intention behind the film, but it is the dark horse of the Halloween franchise, though not its worst installment. Atkins is a fine lead and O’Herlihy a menacing villain. As it stands, there are multiple underdeveloped plot points and an ending which borders on the silly, but fans of horror anthologies will enjoy the possibility of what might have been. Worth a look.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.

For my review of Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, click here.

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