Monday, April 10, 2017

Still Floating After All These Years, or Thoughts on Tim Curry and Stephen King’s IT (1990)

One of the most terrifying TV miniseries of the 90’s, Stephen King’s IT (1990) was directed by John Carpenter collaborator Tommy Lee Wallacethe miniseries is most remembered for the brilliant casting of Tim Curry as Mr. Bob Gray (I read the book), otherwise known as Pennywise, the Dancing Clown.  Stephen King is always good at lulling the reader in with Baby Boomer sentimentality before taking the plot down a darker path and in IT, seven outcast friends in 1960 investigate a string of child abduction/murders, like a twisted Scooby Doo episode, and find a supernatural (there’s a sci-fi twist, but whatever) clown that they are somehow able to defeat, forget about and move on with their lives as marginally happy and successful yuppies.
Until 30 years later (28 in the book, I told you I was one of those people) the murders start up again and the former kids and current yuppies are drawn back to their hometown of Derry, Maine to fight the clown one more time.  Those current yuppies include Richard Thomas as successful writer and Stephen King stand-in (you can always count on a Stephen King stand-in in a Stephen King book) Bill Denbrough, John Ritter as my favorite character in the book, former fat boy and current architect Ben Hanscom, Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak and Annette O’Toole from Cat People (1982) as designer Beverly Marsh.
The first half of the miniseries is a 1960 flashback with kid actors including Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Seth Green as Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson plays the grown-up version).  The only actor who appears with both versions of the cast is of course, Tim Curry.  He uses a coarse Brooklyn accent for Pennywise, like an evil Bugs Bunny, an odd choice given his naturally malevolent and seductive voice.  For many fans he is the personification of Pennywise in the same way that Boris Karloff is Frankenstein’s Monster or Lon Chaney Jr.’s Lawrence Talbot.  It’s hard to imagine any one else inhabiting that role but hey, this is Hollywood and remakes are inevitable.
I think one of the most intriguing aspects of Pennywise is that he’s the only adult who actually pays attention to the kids (I know, abuse metaphors).  All of the children in IT suffer from child abuse or come from neglected homes and have parents that are literally blind to the blood being spilled in front of them.  But Pennywise, along with the kids, can see the blood, he put it there, and it’s up to the kids to defeat him, they can’t rely on any adults for help or comfort.  It’s a bleak perspective until they come back, as adults, to finally lay their childhood nightmares to rest. 
IT seems in retrospect like an elaborate metaphor for repressed childhood traumas, but you could argue that all horror movies are a way of processing trauma, whether real or imagined.  Or you could just not think too deeply about it and watch the antics of an evil clown; it’s probably better that way.  You’ll enjoy the movie more, and when you’re down here, you’ll float too….

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).