Amazon; iHorror; IMDb; Kindertrauma; Movies Anywhere; Retro Junk; Rotten Tomatoes; TV.com; TV Tango; TV Tropes; Warner Bros.; Wikia; Wikipedia
Based on a Stephen King novel, which I haven't read. This originally aired in 1990, but I'm not sure when I first saw it. I would guess it was sometime in the 90s, probably late in the decade, but it could have been earlier than I think, or I guess it even could have been in the early 2000s. (Though I really doubt that.) Whenever it was, I saw it on TV, and I'm fairly sure it was in the early afternoon, though I don't remember if the rerun I watched aired all at once, or on a couple of different days, as it originally did. Years later, not long before Halloween 2014, I happened to see the DVD in at least a couple of different stores, and considered buying it, but didn't. But I did get it a year later, so I watched it in October 2015 (and this time I definitely took two days to watch it). There's not much I remember about the miniseries from the first time I saw it. I know there was a scary clown. And I remember one particular scene... which I'll specify when I get to it in the course of this review. Also, the cast included a bunch of people of whom I was a fan from other things. There's Harry Anderson, Tim Curry, Seth Green, Annette O'Toole, John Ritter, Tim Reid (whom I know best from WKRP in Cincinnati), Richard Thomas (whom I know best from The Waltons), Jonathan Brandis (whom I know best from "SeaQuest DSV"), Richard Masur (whom I know best from My Girl), and Olivia Hussey.
It begins in the present (that is, 1990), in Derry, Maine. A little girl catches a glimpse of a clown (Curry), who apparently kills her. We don't actually see it happen, but we see the authorities show up to investigate the scene, as an ambulance takes the girl's body away. A librarian named Mike Hanlon (Reid) is also at the scene. He's concerned about the recent disappearances of children in town, but the cops want him to leave the matter alone. As he leaves the crime scene, he finds a photograph of a boy named Georgie Denbrough lying on the ground. This leads him to make a series of phone calls to old childhood friends of his (who are all now living in different cities), starting with Georgie's older brother, Bill (played in the present by Thomas, and in flashback by Brandis). In a flashback to 1960, we see the same clown- known as "Pennywise the Dancing Clown"- who killed the girl in the present, lure Georgie to his death. In a series of other flashbacks, we see how Bill and six other kids became friends, while in the present we see a bit of what each of their lives are like as adults (which for most of them seems to be a close fit with what they were like as kids). They include Ben Hanscom (Ritter in the present), Beverly Marsh (O'Toole in the present), Eddie Kaspbrak, Richie Tozier (Anderson in the present, Green in flashback), Stan Uris (Masur in the present), and finally Mike. Aside from being haunted by Pennywise, they're all victimized by a group of bullies led by a boy named Henry Bowers.
Anyway, the seven friends eventually realize that Pennywise is actually one manifestation of a monster that can assume any form. And they decide they have to find and kill the monster, so it won't kill any more children. (They can't ask adults for help, because adults can't see the monster or the things it does to torment the children. Besides which, some of their parents are problematic themselves, particularly Beverly's abusive father.) So they venture into the sewers, where "It" apparently lives, and by the end of part one, the kids (most notably Beverly) seem to have killed the monster, though that's not quite certain. So they make a promise that they'd all come back together if it ever returned. Hence the calls from Mike, thirty years later. And most of them agree to return to Derry, when he calls, except one. Stan apparently commits suicide, rather than return. His wife finds his body, begins to scream, and then my DVD just stopped, mid-scream, with no closing credits or even a fade-out. That seemed weird to me, but whatever. And then... I read what Wikipedia says about part one of the miniseries, but some of what it says didn't happen when I watched the DVD, so I was a bit confused by that (and I came up with a couple of different theories, which I've now deleted from my review, because they were wrong).
This part starts without intro, just as abruptly as part one ended. And in the course of watching it, I realized that what the Wikipedia entry labels "Part I" is actually just about what happened in 1960, while what it labels "Part II" is all the stuff that happens in 1990. Whereas part one was set mostly in the past with occasional glimpses of the present, part two is set mostly in the present, with occasional flashbacks to other events throughout the summer of 1960, which hadn't been seen in part one. It's important to note that everyone except Mike had basically forgotten what happened thirty years ago, so it's really traumatic to suddenly have those memories come rushing back, once they return to Derry. They're happy to see each other again, but none of them are particularly eager to confront "It" again (least of all Richie). Pennywise appears to each of them, engaging in the same kinds of psychological torment it did when they were kids. (The one seen I alluded to in the first paragraph, which I always remembered about the miniseries, was when Ben was kissing Bev, but then it turned out not to be Bev he was kissing, but Pennywise. That, I feel, is the scariest thing that happens.) Meanwhile, "It" also appears to Henry, who's been in a mental institution ever since 1960, having been blamed for all the killings. (Of course the truth was too crazy to be believed.) It now helps him escape, so he can return to Derry and try to kill everyone before they can stop It.
I don't want to say what happened with the Henry plotline, but... eventually five of the friends again go, reluctantly, into the sewer to look for It. And once again, Bev plays a pivotal role in stopping It. I'll also say that we finally get to see Its true form, though I don't want to say exactly what It really looked like. (More physically scary than Pennywise the clown, but less psychologically scary. Also less believable, like something out of an old B-movie.) Oh, and I should mention that Bill's wife, Audra (Hussey), had followed him to Derry, without his knowledge. We see It attack her at one point, but Bill doesn't find out she's in Derry until he and his friends find her in the sewer, incapacitated, along with Its other victims. Of course they eventually beat It, but not without some losses. And that's all I want to say of the plot. I've left a few things out. Actually... I think I've left out rather a lot of details. I should say that part one was better than part two, for the most part. (I think the characters were more likable as kids than as adults, besides which the part of the story set in 1960 had a rather nostalgic quality, even if it was majorly creepy.) But the whole miniseries was pretty good, and Pennywise is probably the most iconic evil clown ever.