It (2017)

Director: Andy Muschietti

Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard

Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman

135 mins. Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language.

 

It seemed like It was never going to get the new adaptation fans have been clamoring for. The project had Cary Joji Fukunaga and Will Poulter originally in place after several unsuccessful attempts, and then Fukunaga left the project and Poulter was replaced. Then, director Andy Muscietti (Mama) surfaced to lead the project, something I was so sure about. I liked Mama, but it was a smaller, more intimate tale, and It is a big booming horror epic. As pics started to drop from the production, I’ll admit that I was unimpressed, and it was only after seeing the film that I realized how wrong I was.

It’s the summer of 1989, and the small town of Derry has been ravaged by a string of disappearances involving children, but Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent, The Book of Henry) isn’t willing to accept that his younger brother Georgie is gone, and he routinely brings his friends, Richie (Finn Wolfhard, Dog Days, TV’s Stranger Things), Eddie, and Stan, down to the Barrens, a marshy area where the sewers empty out, to look for his body. As the summer goes on, the group adds Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor, 42, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween), Beverly (Sophia Lillis, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, TV’s Sharp Objects), and Mike, and each of them is plagued by a strange manifestation they call It, a creature that regularly takes the shape of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård, Deadpool 2, Assassination Nation).

The studio envisioned It as a two-part adaptation of the weighty tome that Stephen King wrote in the 1980s, and this film is an adaption of roughly half of the novel, which jumps back and forth in time seeing the Losers Club as children and adults returning to Derry to finish what they started. For the film, this time as children is the entire focus of the film, a move I actually believe helped the organization of the story much better than jamming the whole book in and trying to do it justice. This is a case of a two-part film that actually needs it.

Each of the kids does a tremendous job in the film at developing a character amidst all the goings on with It, with particular emphasis given to Sophia Lillis as Beverly and Finn Wolfhard as Richie. Lillis gives a nuanced and layered performance as the only female member of the Losers Club, and her collaboration with Muscietti creates a well-dimensioned girl who is dealing with a lot. Beverly was always the best character in the book, too, so it’s great to see her given justice here.

In that same way, I was surprised by how good Finn Wolfhard is as Richie. Wolfhard is of course known for Stranger Things, a series that takes a lot of influence from Stephen King and, at times, It, so I was worried that Wolfhard’s character would be too close to what we see in Stranger Things, but he plays Richie so well as such a different character. Richie is the goofball with the nasty speech and a whole lot of fear, and Finn does him justice.

All that aside, the other tough role to fill here is Pennywise. Coming off the miniseries, Tim Curry’s take on Pennywise the Dancing Clown is the best piece of the puzzle, so finding someone who can give a new take on the creepy clown is a tough sell. I was actually all for Will Poulter, and I was pretty irked when he ended up not getting the part, but Skarsgård just knocks it out of the park. He plays Pennywise with the understanding that this is just one form of It, a very old and very powerful entity, and Pennywise comes across as a favorite form but also as a skin worn by a creature. When he shows his endless rows of teeth, Pennywise’s eyes kind of slough away like they were a snakeskin coming undone. It’s a horrible-looking fantastically-performed boogeyman.

For a lengthy film like this, it’s rather forgotten how smoothly the movie runs. Every time I watch it, I don’t realize the two-hour-plus runtime moving along at a juggernaut pace. There’s so much to cover that it never gets boring. In fact, the screenplay does a solid job at adapting the spirit of the source material instead of just being a carbon-copy of the book set to film. There are major differences about the individual fears that each of the Losers Club have, and the changes are made for a variety of different wholly-understandable reasons. Some of them would’ve been very tough to put to film in a workable way, and others were of the specific time period of the novel (the Losers are in the 50s in the book), and some were cut or rearranged for timing. Now, as much as I loved the werewolf sequences of the book, I understand that the film is not the book, and it’s respectable in that way.

There is a significant flaw for me, though, and it’s this: It wasn’t scary. It pains me to say it, but I wasn’t scared at all. I really thought this would be the one to get me, but it didn’t. There’s some spooky individual moments (watch the librarian in the early scene with Ben), but overall it didn’t give me that shiver-myself-to-sleep vibe I was really hoping for. It’s still more than entertaining for its tale of childhood friendships and monsters and grief, but I just wanted it to be scary.

It is a fantastic adaptation of half of Stephen King’s source material. For a film that had some laughable early production stills, Andy Muschietti really pulled it off and I’m all the more excited for It: Chapter Two. This was a well-constructed story of friendship akin to other classics of the genre like Stand by Me, and apart from lacking in the scares for this writer, it is a wonderfully entertaining thrill-ride.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

1990 It Producers File Lawsuit Against Warner Bros.

Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky are suing Warner Bros. over their contractual rights to be involved in the new It films.

Konigsberg and Sanitsky were producers on the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It, and their claim is that they were denied involvement on the 2017 theatrical adaptation and its 2019 sequel. Their claim is that they have contractual rights to involvement on any “sequel, series, remake, or spinoff” of their miniseries, along with a substantial percentage of net profits.

The two are claiming that the 2017 film and its sequel are remakes of their film, and that they are owed their due on it.

So here’s what I have to say on the subject. I don’t have 100% of the details, but it is interesting that they are coming forward a few years after the 2017 It actually released. I’m not sure why they would wait that long when they knew another film adaptation was coming.

Here’s the other thing. It 2017 is not a remake of It 1990. They are both adaptations of the novel by Stephen King. It is not a sequel. It is not a [television] series. It is not a remake. It is not a spinoff. This film is clearly based on the novel and not on the film. There are specific scenes pulled from the novel that were not even featured in the miniseries.

To me, this is two guys who see a money pie and want a slice, and I think they are trying to squirrel their way into some money. They should attempt creating something popular if they want to get money, perhaps, because their claim is BS.

So what do you think? Is this lawsuit bullshit or are they owed? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Pet Sematary (2019)

Director: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow

Screenplay: Jeff Buhler

101 mins. Rated R for horror violence, bloody images, and some language.

 

Pet Sematary is a haunting novel by Stephen King, one which he claims he almost regrets publishing because it was too dark, even for him. Now, that sounds like a lovely little marketing statement. In all fairness, the novel stayed with me long after finishing it. The original film was fine enough, and it surprisingly retained a lot of the more disturbing elements that one would possibly try to avoid, but I think it’s fair to say that someone should take another crack at it. This year, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes, Holidays) did just that.

Louis (Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty, Serenity) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz, Upstream Color, Wild Nights with Emily) Creed have just moved into their new home in Ludlow, Maine with their kids and pet cat. Louis has a new job working at the university hospital. After some time in the new home, the Creed family cat, Church, dies, and their neighbor Jud (John Lithgow, Late Night, TV’s 3rd Rock from the Sun) brings Louis to a space located just beyond the Pet Sematary behind the house. Louis buries Church there, and soon after, Church is up and walking again. But something is different with the family cat. He smells like rotted flesh and bites and scratches whenever possible. Louis begins to learn a painful secret about the Pet Sematary, one that will stay with him as further tragedy strikes: whatever is buried out beyond the Pet Sematary comes back, just not the same as it was, and sometimes dead is better.

I would have liked to see Andy Muschietti’s interpretation of the classic novel. The It director had expressed interest in attacking this one, but Kölsch and Widmyer got to it first, and the result is…fine. It has an awesomely grim view of the Creed family saga, and the changes to the story are interesting, but I failed to understand why such changes needed to be made. In effect, the changes to the story for this version of the film almost make it tamer than the previous film, an odd thing that I had not expected.

What’s confusing about the changing of most of the back-half of the film and the ending, apart from the notion that it really offers nothing new to the story, is that the film frequently makes small, almost unnoticeable references to the source novel and how it plays out. It kind of just reminds you of how the story is different, and that doesn’t work well for it. The film of course makes plenty of references to King’s other works, but it is the ones that reference tiny details of the novel that seemingly have no point being in the film.

Clarke and Seimetz are perfectly fine with the material, and Lithgow is expertly cast in a way that he offers an interesting character from the book a very unique and welcome interpretation. His is the best performance in the film.

There’s still a lot of the film that works really well, too, from the performances of the two children and the several real cats that played Church to the constant sense of dread that the directors placed over the proceedings. The scares are still there, and there’s some gruesomely haunting imagery in the film, all of it serves to unnerve its audience quite well. I found the experience quite enjoyable, but the problem was, about a day after seeing the film, I had forgotten much of what I really liked about it. The film didn’t stick with me the same way the source novel did, and that’s a damn shame.

Pet Sematary is an enjoyable albeit disturbing little movie that I enjoyed upon seeing. It’s also a forgettable experience that won’t leave much of a lasting effect on its viewers. Some of you may actually like that, as it deals with not-so-fun topics at times. I am saddened that it didn’t turn out as great as I had hoped, but it also wasn’t all that bad either. The film is fine. Just fine enough to warrant a viewing.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

James Marsden Potentially Leading Stephen King’s The Stand

File this one under Exciting News for This Writer.

I’ve been extremely excited to see a new attempt at Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s my favorite book, and I’m not alone in that way. It’s often in the top five of just about any King fans personal list. For years now, different filmmakers have been trying to take a crack at it. I was particularly interested when Ben Affleck was rumored to be directing two films, like how It was done, telling the massive tome. As far as book lengths go, the uncut, extended edition of The Stand is longer than It, coming in around the 1,200 page mark. Now, Josh Boone, self-described as a major Stand fan, has taken on the project, now in limited series form over at CBS All Access. Casting is officially underway for the project, so let’s tackle a few of these.

James Marsden is circling the project in the role of Stu Redman, an East Texas man who comes into contact with patient zero of an extinction level flu. He’s the lead character (if there is one) in the novel and I’d be happy with someone of his caliber jumping into the role of Stu.

Amber Heard is in talks for Nadine Cross, and this is just spot-on for the character. I really like the way her character is played out in the 1994 miniseries, but I think more can be done with the longer-form narrative this time around. I think Amber Heard is great when she means to be, and I think she could find a nice level of connection to Nadine, a troubled teacher. Her casting will depend on who is brought on to play Larry Underwood, the singer who first comes across Nadine in the story.

This is one of the weird ones. Whoopi Goldberg is in talks for Mother Abigail. The interesting thing about this character is that she is 106 years old in the book. In fact, she states that fact a lot. Now, Ruby Dee played the character in the original miniseries and they applied a lot of makeup, so I could see that being the route, but can Whoopi play old and can she play the serious up again? I just haven’t seen serious Whoopi Goldberg in some time.

Greg Kinnear is in negotiations for Glen Bateman, another interesting choice given that Greg Kinnear is also not as old as the character he’s written to play. Now, this one is not as drastic as Mother Abigail nor is it really contingent. He provides an interesting fatherly/brotherly character to Stu, and I think, whether or not under a lot of aging makeup, Kinnear could play that to Marsden.

Odessa Young and Henry Zaga have been tasked for Frannie Goldsmith and Nick Andros, respectively. I have little knowledge on either, but these are important characters in the novel so care should be given in casting.

I’m more than a little excited to visit the world of The Stand. I cannot wait for this interpretation, and the casting here just means that this is chugging along quite nicely. Thanks go out to Collider and Jeff Sneider for all the great info here, and I’m looking forward to learning more.

So what do you think? Are you excited for The Stand? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The World Shines for Doctor Sleep Official Teaser

I’ve been very curious about the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. It’s based on his novel, of course, which was a sequel to The Shining. I was curious how they were going to tackle The Shining, a film that King notoriously hated and one that made some changes to King’s book that would indeed affect Doctor Sleep.

Well, I have a bit more of my answer, as the Official Teaser Trailer for Doctor Sleep has arrived, and it’s pretty excellent. The film, directed by Mike Flanagan of The Haunting of Hill House fame, is set decades after The Shining with a now adult Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor) protecting another child with the Shining from a cult called The True Knot.

It starts with a very notable reference to The Shining, featuring Redrum on the wall and Danny connecting with his past. We get some cool interactions between Danny and the younger kid with the gift, and it’s very reminiscent of Dick Halloran’s discussions with the child Danny.

We get some cool shots of The True Knot, although I’m not sure as much about what’s going on with that. My goal is to read the Doctor Sleep book before the film actually comes out, but what I saw was pretty damn excellent. It’s great to see more Rebecca Ferguson. The shot of her greeting the little girl made me think of Frankenstein’s monster throwing the little girl in the lake.

What I’m most astounded by, though, is the way they recreated Kubrick’s version of The Shining for the film, which leads me to the obvious that while the Doctor Sleep book is a sequel to King’s book, this film version will be a sequel to Kubrick’s film and an adaptation of King’s book, so it will be interesting to see how they play the differences between the two mediums.

With the references to The Shining, Flanagan has seemingly (again, this is only a teaser) found a way to meld his style, which has refined over the past several films, and Kubrick’s visual palette for The Shining into one, and it looks amazing!

This trailer just about blew me out of the water! I cannot wait to read the book and see the film when it opens on November 8th.

So what do you think? Did you see the trailer and what did you think about it? Have you read the Doctor Sleep book? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Well, 2018 is done. What do we do now? Talk about 2019.

Just a couple of quick notes again this year:

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to as of right now, so there will be more blockbusters than indies because that’s just how it plays out. With that being said…

NOTE: I’M GOING TO TRY THE COUNTDOWN THIS YEAR RATHER THAN JUST A LIST.

 

10. Captain Marvel

-What excites me so much about Captain Marvel is its timing. This will be Marvel’s second true prequel in setting the film in the 1990s. I like the idea that this film could tie into Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love Brie Larson and I think her addition to this story is very exciting. This just feels like a great space adventure that we are less likely to get for some time now that the third Guardians film has kind of disappeared. This one is a blockbuster want for me.

 

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

-I’m happy that Guillermo del Toro has a Best Picture under his belt so he can do what he wants. One of the exciting projects from him in 2019 is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the popular horror story collections for youths. I grew up reading these stories and they gave me chills and have kept me awake at night. I chose this over Nickelodeon’s big-screen version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? because I think del Toro will push the horror whereas I worry that Nick will not take the horror seriously. We are seeing a small possibility of scary children films due to The House with a Clock in its Walls in 2018. This one excites me.

 

8. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

-This is the batshit crazy film of 2018. Until I saw the trailer, I was not looking forward to it. Why would you choose to make the first live-action Pokemon about Detective Pikachu instead of a traditional Pokemon story? Why would you select Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu? Why? Well, the trailer seemed like a lot of fun. I’m still not sure about the film as a whole, but I want to support a Pokemon film universe, and if that starts with Detective Pikachu, so be it.

 

7. Pet Sematary

-This new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel (it’s my wife’s favorite King novel) is getting me very excited. As much as I enjoy the original adaptation, I have to admit that it didn’t follow the masterful source material as much as it could. This new film features the incredible Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, and the first trailer got me going. I love the look of Church the cat, and I love the visual look of the film overall.

 

6. Glass

-Where the hell did Glass come from? How did this happen? When Split came out, nobody expected the [SPOILER ALERT] twist that Split was connected to Unbreakable. Nobody expected that this would further in a third film called Glass which would bring together Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, and Anya Taylor-Joy for a final confrontation. Glass is one of the most unexpected films of the last few years, and I’m overjoyed to see what it brings.

 

5. It: Chapter 2

It was a film that surprised everyone. I enjoyed the trailer even though the first images were lacking that bite. Director Andy Muschietti brought a much more emotional experience to the film than I expected, and while it doesn’t contain literal translations of some of King’s massive tome, it does translate the feeling and tone of the book quite nicely. Breaking It into 2 films is strange because a bulk of the film is set during the childhood, so I’m curious where it could go with that. The second half of the 1990 miniseries is where it loses me, so Muschietti has a lot on his plate for this follow-up.

 

4. Avengers: Endgame

-Okay, this had to be on here somewhere, right. It’s a testament to the great plate of films we have before us in 2019 that Avengers 4 is below three other films. Yes, we have to find out how this thing finishes. We knew a lot of where Avengers: Infinity War was going to travel, but I have no idea where we go from here. Yes, I feel like we will have a lot of the third film reversed, but I cannot deny the palpable excitement for this one.

 

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

-When Quentin Tarantino makes a film, I get excited. When he sets it in the 1960s, I get more excited. When he compares it to Pulp Fiction, I lose my freaking mind. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie star in this new film from the master which also features Al Pacino in his first collaboration with Tarantino. Not much is known still but I cannot wait.

 

2. Us

-In about 3 minutes, Us became one of my most-anticipated films of 2019. That trailer. That trailer! Oh! I was already looking forward to this follow-up from the director of Get Out, and then I saw that trailer. His usage of popular music in a horror setting with some oozingly creepy imagery is what made me most excited for this film, and it comes out on my birthday too. So much win.

 

1. Star Wars: Episode IX

-C’mon, you had to know this. It’s been called the culmination of the Skywalker saga, and it brings back J.J. Abrams who killed it with The Force Awakens. After The Last Jedi (my favorite of the new films), I simply cannot wait to see where this new film goes, and it just has so much riding on it. It has to be Star Wars. It’s my most anticipated film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. What are you most excited to see in 2019? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

Ben Mendelsohn to Lead The Outsider for HBO

HBO has officially ordered a series adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Outsider. Ben Mendelsohn (Ready Player One) has been tapped to the lead the series for the network.

The novel features an investigation around the murder of a local boy which turns into something far more shocking and supernatural.

The show’s first two episodes will be directed by actor/director Jason Bateman, who will also executive produce the series with Mendelsohn.

As a regular self-proclaimed fan of King, this is an exciting project coming together for HBO. The network is likely looking down several avenues to replace Game of Thrones when it wraps in 2019, one of them being a Game of Thrones prequel series. There’s also a Watchmen adaptation in the works. It’s a pretty exciting upcoming slate for HBO.

The news of Mendelsohn joining is also really exciting to me. Mendelsohn is a terrific actor in a number of different capacities, but most recently he’s been featured heavily in villainous roles, so seeing him as a lead will be a welcome sight.

To my knowledge, there is no release date for the series yet, but I’m very excited with all the news I’ve gotten so far.

What do you think? Are you excited for a Ben Mendelsohn-led Stephen King series? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 18 – Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde

Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

100 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.

 

Many people know the love I have for the novel Carrie. There have been three adaptations of the classic novel (the original film even had a sequel), most recently in 2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss). That’s the one we are talking about today.

Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, November Criminals) is a troubled girl with a difficult life at home. Her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore, The Hours, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) is a religious fanatic who believes the very birth of her daughter to be one of the most sinful acts in her life. At school, Carrie is not popular. When she experiences her first period, she is tortured and ridiculed by her female classmates, led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday, Youth in Revolt, TV’s Mr. Robot). Many of the girls later feel terrible about their actions, including Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde, The Three Musketeers, TV’s Poldark), who devises a plan to make things right with Carrie. Chris, though, devises a plan of her own, that will push Carrie to the breaking point. What the girls don’t know is that Carrie White has an amazing gift, one that she cannot control. This gift has incredible and horrifying potential that will forever alter all their lives.

This is a film that brings to life a classic argument among film criticism. The crew, including director Peirce, claim that this incarnation of Carrie is a re-imaging of the classic Stephen King novel. Unfortunately, this film is very little more than a scene-by-scene remake of the original film. It even uses the original screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen with added updates and a few tweaks by Riverdale creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa. It just feels hollowly made. It’s difficult to blame the studio for interfering (the film was notoriously heavily re-edited after poor test screenings, cutting somewhere around 45 minutes from the finished product) because of just how much the movie feels like a retread of the original.

Moretz and Moore are terrifically cast as daughter and mother White. Peirce fills the rest of her cast with the hottest young stars of 2013, including Ansel Elgort in his first film roll as Tommy Ross, Sue Snell’s boyfriend. Elgort does a pretty nice job as Ross as well.

The film is well shot and features some truly impressive camerawork. What muddles the final product is the atrocious CGI (it didn’t look very good in 2013 either). Some of it is truly cheap-looking. The movie didn’t need some of the more stylish CGI, so I don’t understand the need to use it, especially in the last third of the film.

Carrie is fine, but it beckons to be compared to Brian De Palma’s superior film from decades back. It features some fine performance work but there are some technical issues with marr the film’s watchability. It’s too bad, because there are shades of incredible here, but it just feels too similar, and in that way, unnecessary.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Stephen King Day] The Shining (1997)

Director: Mick Garris

Cast: Rebecca De Mornay, Steven Weber, Wil Horneff, Melvin Van Peebles, Courtland Mead

Screenplay: Stephen King

273 mins. Not Rated.

 

Yep, it’s Stephen King’s birthday again, and today we are going to talk about The Shining. No, that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. No, the other one. Yes, there was another one, this time directed by King regular Mick Garris (Critters 2, Bag of Bones).

Jack Torrance (Steven Weber, Batman vs Two-Face, TV’s Wings) has just been given the job of caretaker at The Overlook Hotel during its winter hiatus. He is planning on spending the winter the famous hotel, keeping it safe and secure until the snow melts. Joining him for the season is wife Wendy (Rebecca De Mornay, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, I Am Wrath) and son Danny (Courtland Mead, Little Rascals, Recess: All Growed Down). When the snow starts in, Jack begins to unravel the mystery of The Overlook’s past, from murders to mafia ties, and as he does so, he begins to be tormented by his alcoholic past as he himself unravels. Son Danny begins to see horrors of his own due to a special gift that he shares with the head cook of The Overlook, Dick Halloran (Melvin Van Peebles, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Peeples). Halloran tells Danny to ignore these visions, that none of them can hurt him, but Danny begins to learn that there are things at The Overlook very capable of hurting him and his family.

The Shining is by no means a perfect film. Some of the pacing is off, the visual effects are often laughably bad (even though the practical effects work well enough), and there’s a cheapness to the film that permeates the sets. De Mornay and Weber are quite good in their roles, but the young Courtland Mead just cannot do justice to the Danny Torrance character from the book. Van Peebles is also horribly miscast and just doesn’t fit the Dick Halloran character at all.

On the other side of that coin, The Shining is an incredible adaptation of Stephen King’s source novel. I hate to compare this to the other adaptation from Stanley Kubrick, but this film captures King’s novel, while Kubrick’s film is a terrible adaptation that makes for a terrific movie, and in that way, I like them both for what they offer, but being such a fan of King’s book, I find myself pulled more to this version of the story, purely for what it offers me. I’m definitely in the minority here, but I prefer the 1997 miniseries, even if I acknowledge it as a lesser film in many ways.

Overall, 1997 version of King’s tale is heavily flawed from a technical standpoint, but it is truer to the King novel. I love this version but I can understand why it has disappeared from the memory of many others due to its comparison to the 1980 film.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[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.

 

 

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