[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,

Draft Day (2014)

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Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliot, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman

Screenplay: Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph

110 mins. Rated R for brief strong language.

 

I didn’t think I would enjoy Draft Day. I rented it because my brother enjoys sports movies. I also like Ivan Reitman, though his work as of late had been disappointing. I rented it because I thought it would be something I could recommend to my bro, or something I could tell him to steer clear of. That was it. Plus, it didn’t hurt that it was a movie.

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Draft Day is all about Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, 3 Days to Kill) on the most important day of his career: Draft Day, a day on which Sonny might lose his job, due to his bad calls as a draft manager, or it could redeem him, as long as he doesn’t screw it up. His estranged romantic relationship with Ali (Jennifer Garner, TV’s Alias, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) continues to get tangled, as does his working relationship with Coach Penn (TV’s Rescue Me, Ice Age: Continental Drift). In fact, as Sonny keeps getting more and more risky with his choices throughout the day, he puts himself further and further into being let go from his job and losing all the connections that make his life mean something.

Kevin Costner does great work here, and the scenes in which he is actually interacting with others heighten their performances as well. You can see Sonny’s mind working to fix the situation that he keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into.

Draft Day uses some interesting cinematography and editing techniques to keep the pacing going. I didn’t actually realize that the movie is essentially two hours of talking, which it is.

I found it interesting that this film features three different actors from three separate iterations of Superman: Kevin Costner from Man of Steel, Frank Langella from Superman Returns, and Tom Welling from TV’s Smallville. I just thought you should know.

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Now, the film runs on a bit longer than it should and the football jargon confused me a bit, but I found myself excited for the enticing climax to come and I was not disappointed in the thrills of this movie. I really liked Draft Day a lot, and I feel like people who participate in fantasy football league drafts or even people that love the world of football will like it too. Give this one a go.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day? Touchdown or fumble? Let me know!

31 Days of Horror: Day 2 – Urban Legend (1998)

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Director: Jamie Blanks

Cast: Jared Leto, Alica Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Rosenbaum, Tara Reid

Screenplay: Silvio Horta

99 mins.  Rated R for horror violence/gore, language and sexual content.

 

If I had to classify the 1990s with a specific kind of horror film, it would most definitely have to be the slasher film. In the 90s we had classics like Scream and its sequel, we had messes like I Know What You Did Last Summer, and we had Urban Legend, which exists somewhere in the middle.

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Urban Legend is essentially Scream in practicality, but instead of horror film staples as the moniker, we get urban legends, the scary stories that everyone swears happened to someone who knew someone they know. Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt, Two Weeks Notice, A Madea Christmas) gets entangled with the killer after several close classmates get picked off, but who is it? Is it Paul Gardener (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), the strange school paper writer, or is it best friend Brenda Bates (Rebecca Gayheart, Jawbreaker, G.B.F.), or perhaps party king Parker Riley (Michael Rosenbaum, TV’s Smallville, Hit and Run), or could it be radio student Sasha Thomas (Tara Reid, The Big Lebowski, Sharknado 2: The Second One)? The answer is simple, if you know latin. In fact, in a SPOILER ALERT but not really SPOILER ALERT note, the killer’s identity is actually revealed in the school motto in latin.

The plot and slasher tool of Urban Legend isn’t all that bad. In fact, it can have some meta connotations in that the very belief of urban legend is that they are true, so turning fiction to fact would be a very interesting to play with, but screenwriter Silvio Horta (TV’s Ugly Betty) doesn’t play with it as much as just present the idea in its plainest of ways. That’s the real death of the story in that it is wasted. The main concept becomes little more than campiness on a stick.

None of the performances are very good, nor are any of the characters very likable. The greatest win of the acting in this film comes from the many cameos associated with horror films, from Brad Dourif (Chucky the killer doll) in the opening, Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) as the professor everyone admires and fears, and Danielle Harris (Michael Myers’ niece Jamie Lloyd) as the goth dorm mate to Natalie.

Take an opportunity to enjoy the 90s soundtrack as it pulsates of musicians you might find at The Bronze from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The sets are interesting. I love the university, it just oozes creepy.

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My advice, watch this movie as it does have some thrills to it (the opening itself is nearly perfect) but be warned that it is far from far from perfect. You heard that correctly, far from FAR FROM perfect. That is twice removed.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more from the 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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