Weekend Film Recommendation: It

Most made-for-television movies are disappointing. Most movies based on Stephen King books, likewise. But here’s a nightmare-inducing film that overturns both those rules: It. Ask an adult who saw it many years ago what they remember and you may hear, after a shudder, the half-whispered words “That clown…”.

The plot (including the ending) is a bit inscrutable at times, but it runs something like this: In 1990, in the small town of Derry, Maine, a horrifying clown named Pennywise (A ghoulishly good Tim Curry) is preying on children. One adult resident of the town, Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid, who like the many other experienced adult TV actors in this film is solid throughout), begins to remember that he and his friends were terrorized by Pennywise as children. He contacts each of them, now successful adults, and they too awaken from a strange amnesia. They suddenly recall that as socially rejected kids, self-dubbed “The Loser Club”, they banded together to successfully combat Pennywise. Now they know that Pennywise is but one manifestation of a deeper, darker force which slumbers beneath the town, re-awakening every 30 years to feed again. “It” has returned, and The Loser Club must reunite to save the children of Derry and also conquer the demons that haunt them as adults.

The film is structured in two parts, which were originally shown over two nights on television. In the first, we meet the central characters as children, battling It in 1960. The second part focuses mainly on the adults in 1990. However, this section of the movie cannily injects flashbacks to the 1960 part of the story, which helps hold interest over the 3+ hour running time because the child actors are so compelling and the scenes with Pennywise menacing the children are so chilling.

There are many shocks and screams here, but as with much of King’s best work (e.g., Stand by Me), there are also remarkable insights into the world of children and warm portrayals of life-changing friendships. The small budget shows here and there: Not all the special effects are first-rate and there are no Hollywood mega-stars in view. But the story is gripping enough, the actors appealing and talented enough and the scares plentiful enough to make It one of the best horror films in television history.

And remember: “They all float!”

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

3 thoughts on “Weekend Film Recommendation: It”

  1. Never saw the TV movie. The book was pretty much where King jumped the shark – my theory is that his editors could no longer compel him to go back and cut his turgid manuscript (as they fortunately did with The Stand).

    That, and the double whammy of the ending, which I assume had to be changed for the TV version. No spoilers from me, but you who’ve read it, you know what I mean. The monster turns out to be a ______________??? And the kids got rid of it by ______________????????

    1. I felt pretty much the same about The Stand. Wait, you mean that on the verge of winning, the bad guys find a ______________ and accidentally ______________??? One of the weakest story endings I’ve ever read.

  2. a ugly clown you stinkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk

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