Sometimes, you have to be honest with your nostalgia.
In the wake of the IT teaser trailer hitting the net, I am incredibly excited to see Andy Muschietti’s vision for the Stephen King novel up on the big screen – but that’s an excitement that I personally felt long before I ever saw a single frame of the movie. For starters, I’m a huge fan of Mama, which proved that Muschietti is adept at making a pretty damn scary horror flick. But perhaps more importantly, I was excited that King’s novel was getting another adaptation because, well, I’m just going to come right out and say it: the book was not done any sort of justice back in 1990.
Director Tommy Lee Wallace’s lengthy miniseries adaptation of IT is easily the most beloved horror movie to ever debut on the small screen; Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise, in particular, is still dishing out nightmares at a steady clip to this very day. There’s no denying that Curry was incredible in the role that Bill Skarsgard is taking over for Muschietti’s two-film adaptation, but the high points of the 1990 miniseries almost entirely begin and end with his talents.
What I’m trying to say is, there’s a reason most don’t remember much of anything about the adaptation aside from the fact that Curry, as Pennywise, was truly nightmarish. Many fans tend to have a nostalgic connection to the miniseries because they saw it when they were young, but when you revisit it in the present day, one thing becomes immediately clear: it’s a poor telling of a really great story, made iconic only by an unforgettable performance from the great character actor of a generation. Take Curry out of the mix and, well, let’s just be glad he was in it.
Of course, this is only my opinion, but a recent revisit of IT 1990 (just last year) admittedly let me wondering why the miniseries is even as beloved as it is; to an even greater extent, it left me wondering why the hell anyone was up in arms when the new adaptation was announced. And it’s not even that the special effects don’t look so great today, which many tend to hold against it when they revisit; if anything, the dated effects give the miniseries a charm that I can’t help but love. It’s more that the story is poorly conveyed and executed, the acting is shoddy, and it all around feels very much like what it is: a made-for-TV movie. It’s incredibly corny, and not just by today’s standards. And though it has its moments, it’s mostly just plain bad.
Furthermore, my most recent revisit made me realize that even Pennywise himself is poorly brought to the screen in the 1990 miniseries. Sure, Curry is fantastic and the costuming/makeup is exceptional, but Tommy Lee Wallace does a pretty bad job of actually making Pennywise scary; he’s more whimsical than he is threatening, and as a result, the incredible fear that the characters feel – both as children and later as adults – does not at all translate to what you’ve actually seen for yourself. It all comes off as being silly, awkward, and amateurish.
But my intention with this post wasn’t to sit here for an hour trashing the work Tommy Lee Wallace did back in 1990; it’s beloved for a reason, and it makes me happy that so many fans hold it so near and dear. Rather, I wanted to point to its flaws to illustrate that Stephen King’s IT, maybe more than any other iconic horror property out there, is in desperate need of a proper adaptation. As horror fans, we’ve become accustomed to perfect movies from the past being greenlit for remakes/reboots/re-adaptations, but IT is the rare film that actually warrants one. And now that I’ve seen the trailer for Muschietti’s rated R adaptation, holy shit has that become crystal clear to me.
Muschietti’s IT looks genuinely terrifying, and with King’s decades-spanning story being spread across two completely separate feature films, I’ve got a good feeling that it’s going to be done the epic justice that it has long deserved. If we’re all being honest with ourselves, the 1990 adaptation left much to be desired. And if you’re asking me, that makes it as ripe for a fresh new take as any piece of entertainment has ever been. Tommy Lee Wallace’s hands were tied when he made his TV miniseries. Muschietti, however, doesn’t appear to be holding anything back.
We may very well be in store for one of the great horror remakes of all time.