JFS the Reviewer
IT miniseries (1990) vs. IT remake (2017 & 2019) review
“IT” is a 1986 horror novel, which was written by Stephen King. The book is about these young kids that live in a small town of Derry, Maine, and they’re being terrorized by an evil entity that takes on the form of what they fear so he can eat them. The kids have to find a way to stop the clown, before it kills them, like it has to so many other kids before them.
Much like Stephen King’s books, this novel eventually got its own movie. Not on the big screen due to how long the book is, so they made it into a miniseries to be shown on television from 18th to the 20th of November in 1990.
The miniseries was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, who was one of the writers for the film along with Lawrence D. Cohe. The miniseries was released on ABC, which was a risk for the network due to having no horror content on its network. The network chose to still air it and even produce it after the success of Stand by Me (1986). The film also had to focus a lot on the positive themes and tone down the horror themes.
The miniseries was a success due to how many viewers ended up watching the series and critics gave positive response to the miniseries. However, it was mostly towards the first part, while the second part suffered due to the adult actors and the ending.
Despite this though, the miniseries was still a success and it wouldn’t be until 2017 when the remake would be release.
The miniseries is cut into two-parts. The first shows the adult actors getting phone calls from their friend, Mike, who stayed in Derry. He calls them to let them know IT has return and they soon get flashbacks of what happened when they were young. This is where most of the story of the first part focuses on.
Introducing us to each of the characters, their personality, their encounters with IT, and how they became friends. They all realized they are being hunted by the same monster and they must work together in order to stop it.
The second part focuses the rest of the story on the adult actors, their arrival back to Derry, their encounters with IT, and how they have to finish the monster off for good before it takes more lives.
The remake goes in a different direction with its two films. The first focuses on the kid actors, without going to the adults until the second movie. We’re introduced to the kids, what they are going through, their encounters with IT, becoming friends, and them trying to stop it.
The second film, much like part two, focuses on them trying to find a way to stop IT before they end up dying in horrible ways.
All right, so both the miniseries and its remake with their stories seem to both be similar in some ways. With both the first part and the remake doing a good job introducing us to the characters. While also seeing what they are going through in their personal lives and with the monster stalking them. The miniseries though has to keep flashing back and forth between the adults then to the kids.
While with the remake, we’re focusing more on the kids in this story and not flashing back to the adults. Now, yes both their second parts didn’t do well, and the remake’s sequel did go longer than the second part of the miniseries. However, I felt there was more of a bond with the adult actors in the remake, than the adult actors in the miniseries. And it had a much better conclusion than the miniseries, which was a bit of a letdown.
Now yes, both the original and remake I wish they had given us more background about IT. While also including the Cosmic Turtle in this film like they did with the book. Nonetheless, I did feel the remake with its story for both films did a much better job than the original. In both keeping the audience interested in what is going on, but also doing a good job keeping it balanced.
With the fear, comedic, and touching moments all balancing each other out. All coming in the right time and the right moment. Without ruining the tone for each scene with something dumb. What about the characters though?
The miniseries starred Tim Curry as the main antagonist of the film, Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
Playing the children, we had Jonathan Brandis (who tragically passed away in 2003) playing as Bill, Emily Perkins playing as Beverly, Brandon Crane as Ben, Seth Green as Richie, Adam Faraizl as Eddie, Ben Heller as Stanley, and Marlon Taylor as Mike.
The actors playing the adult version of the kids were Richard Thomas (Bill), Annette O’Toole (Beverly), John Ritter (Ben), Harry Anderson (Richie), Dennis Christopher (Eddie), Richard Masur (Stanley), and Tim Reid (Mike).
While with the remake, Bill Skarsgård plays as the main antagonist of the film, Pennywise the Dancing Clown. As for the actors playing the kids, we had Jaeden Martell as Bill, Sophia Lillis as Beverly, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Finn Wilfhard as Richie, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley, and Chosen Jacobs as Mike.
The actors playing the adult version of the kids were James McAvoy (Bill), Jessica Chastain (Beverly), Jay Ryan (Ben), Bill Hader (Richie), James Ransone (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stanley), and Isaiah Mustafa (Mike).
Now, the kid actors for both films did an amazing job with their performances. I always worry about having kid actors in horror movie or any movie at all since at times they can give deadpan reactions. Whether in how they talk or in their expressions. That’s why with both the miniseries and remake, they did a fantastic job with their roles.
They do a good job working off each other, showing why they are friends, and see the bond they have, especially when they go up against the evil clown. Hell, when they get terrified, they’re able to express it in a way that looks and feels genuine.
As far as the adult actors for both films, well I feel the remake with their actors did it better. With the original, I never got a sense of them having any sort of bond and their performance was not as memorable as with the kids. The adult actors for the remake actually were more memorable than the original, had more personality to them, and you could tell they did have more of a bond with each other than the original. Granted some on their own didn’t do so well like James McAvoy.
However, the two that I felt shined the most were Bill Hader and James Ransone. The chemistry between the two were so great and it was a lot of fun to see them working with each other.
Okay, well what about the villains? Which one did it better?
I love Tim Curry as Pennywise and I found him so entertaining. As a kid, sure he scared the hell out of me. As an adult though, I thought he was the best part of the miniseries. A memorable scene was him in the library and how he was pestering the actor playing Richie.
However, if we have to choose on who was better at playing as a monster than it has to go with Bill Skarsgård. Not only did he make Pennywise such an intimidating clown, but also a terrifying one. The remake version also showed how dangerous Pennywise is and how psychotic he can be. To the point he seems to enjoy tormenting his victims, driving them to their breaking point, before he devours them.
Truly, the remake did a great job with their young actors, their adult actors, and choosing a perfect actor to play the role of Pennywise the dancing clown. So, with that being said, what about the special effects, music, and settings?
Let’s start off with the settings. I really enjoyed how well the settings for both films looked. Once more it felt like they shot this in a small town and didn’t need to make too many changes to it. When they need to make it look old, they don’t need to do anything to the buildings, except just decorate them to look old.
The only changes needed were the vehicles and whatever devices were around that time. Once we get to the modern times for the second part of both films, then they can have them look exactly what we have right now.
I do like how the remake though we get to have our characters fight our evil monster in a very creepy house, then down the dark tunnels, and then fight IT in its lair. The lair for the second part of the remake looked pretty good too and where they showed where IT crashed when the monster arrived at the planet.
I think the remake though did a better job with their settings and how they shot their film. I think a favorite scene from the movie was how they shot the first time we see Pennywise. Down in the sewer drain with Georgie talking to him. In the original, there were times you could tell it didn’t look like it was raining and didn’t seem that creepy with original meeting Georgie.
In the remake though, they made sure to make it look like it was pouring down rain and made sure to make Pennywise look very creepy when he’s down in the sewer drain. Talking to Georgie and trying to gain his trust before he eats him.
Now, the special effects for both films I have some mixed feelings about. For the miniseries, they didn’t need a lot of special effects except for a few times, but it wasn’t all bad. Granted the part where the clown pops from the shower floor, to him escaping through a small sewer hole, and then the “true” form of IT. Hmm, yeah didn’t age well.
Now, for the remake, the special effects at times yeah you could tell were fake. However, they still did an amazing job trying to make the clown look terrifying at times. A good example is the projector scene in the garage and when IT fought the Losers Club. Now, for its sequel the special effects were all right, but at times did look dumb.
That being said, at least the IT spider form looked better than the one we got with the miniseries. But they did work hard on designing it and having it be there, rather than the remake where its all CGI.
Richard Bellis was the composer for the original and I have to say he didn’t do a bad job. I did like the music that was used, especially for Pennywise. Although, I have to say, the remake did a better job with their musical scores.
Benjamin Wallfisch did the music for both films and I have to say, he did a great job making some of the music creepy as hell, but also some calming music too. A good example is one called “Every 27 years” where it starts off creepily, but then goes to a nice gentle piano music being played.
Both films did a decent job with their settings, special effects, and music. But when it comes down to it, the remake I felt had more money to be able to do more than the miniseries. They didn’t go over the top and made sure to use what they had to make their movie. Both in how they shot it, to its setting, their special effects, and to their music.
The miniseries was a good film that not only was entertaining to watch, but I felt was better than the book, which had certain things that I don’t think could have worked for live action. However, the 2017 and its sequel were a great remake for the 1990 miniseries. They not only did a good job with telling their story, but I felt was also one of the few great remakes that Hollywood has been doing for past Stephen King works. I hope this trend continues and they do more remakes, while making sure not to go over the top.
The remake proves you don’t to cram everything from the book into one movie. If you put in enough to keep people interested, then you can make a remake and keep people invested.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The original is still a fun film and it is one I highly recommend watching. It has its moments that can be both fun and a little scary depending on the age that watches it. However, if you want to get scared, then I recommend checking out the remake.
Just please make sure your kids don’t end up watching it. Otherwise they’ll end up terrified of clowns for a long time.