Picks and Pans Review: Stephen King's "it"

updated 11/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sun., Nov. 18, 9 P.M. ET)

A

Don't watch this miniseries alone. A rash of child killings in a small Maine town signals the return of a fiendish creature. The town librarian (Tim Reid) calls together a band of far-flung friends who had faced down this monster 30 years earlier.

There's Richard Thomas (ponytailed horror writer); Harry Anderson (big-time comedian); John Ritter (famous architect); Annette O'Toole (fashion designer); Dennis Christopher (limo service owner); and Richard Masur (businessman), who makes yet another of his patented early exits from a movie.

Their nemesis is a mutable evil spirit that usually manifests itself as a white-faced clown named Pennywise, with filmy fangs and blurred, bloodshot eyes. This bent Bozo is played con brio by Tim Curry.

King's video gargoyle wouldn't fly if the actors who play this group as children (Jonathan Brandis, Seth Green, Adam Faraizl, Brandon Crane, Emily Perkins, Ben Heller and Marlon Taylor) weren't so skilled at presenting the cruelties and camaraderie of childhood. Director Tommy Lee Wallace handles the pop-up fright flourishes well, but, just as important, gives the less-charged scenes a very realistic tone.

During the mini's conclusion on Tuesday, when Pennywise is menacing the adults, this becomes a much more conventional (that is to say, more boring and more lurid) horror film. But the plausibility of the first night makes this one of the better scare fests that TV has seen.

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