The original creepy clown, who started it all, crawls back out of the sewers, to feast on the fear of a whole new generation of cinemagoers.
Coulrophobia, or more commonly known as ‘the fear of clowns’, is pretty common these days. So much so, that it’s birthed its own creepily comedic chapter of Horror, in the form of the ‘Killer Clown’ sub-genre. With so many people jumping out of their seats, every time a McDonald’s advert with their own unnerving entertainer comes on, it poses the question: ‘Where did this even start?’ The answer is relatively simple: it all started with ‘It’.
What is ‘It’? Well, let me take you back to the mid-2000s. One of the obscure Horror channels at the bottom of the TV guide (you know the one’s I’m talking about), was showing a re-run of a 1990s mini-series – called ‘It’. Being quite young, I sat down to watch the film, and spent the next three hours having the coulrophobic curse imprinted into my mind, via one falsely friendly, and enigmatically enticing performance from Tim Curry. As is now quite apparent in 2017 that I wasn’t alone as many remember Curry’s king of creepy clowns who still haunts their nostalgia for the 90s, even today.
So, with the start of this new genre and the fear of clowns still being very relevant, it only seemed right for the classic killer clown to make its long awaited return to the Horror circuit.
‘It’ follows our twelve-year-old protagonist, Bill Denborough, who is intent on finding his lost brother, Georgie, and ignores the grisly reality which his parents have already accepted. When his searching leads to the discovery of a much older evil, living in the sewers underneath his hometown of Derry, he bands together his ‘Goonies’-esque group of friends, the ‘Loser’s Club’, to fight this fear-feeding force as a whole.
With a largely child-orientated cast, it would have been pretty easy for the film’s acting to fall short of expectations. If anything, the original is a testament to this, as each and every child actor from the mini-series, had about as much charisma and character development as the extras from a Take That music video. Thankfully, the casting for this film is stellar, to say the least. Each member of the ‘Loser’s Club’ is developed to a point where we are invested in them, yet a level of enigma is still present. This further prepares us for a sequel, where we’d learn more about this rag-tag group of pre-teens. The two stand out performances from the group, are easily from Jack Grazer and Finn Wolfheart, as Eddie and Richie. Grazer plays a persistently paranoid child, who for a large part of the film personifies the audience’s voice in the script, with him being the one to question their plan to crawl into the evil clown’s sewer lair (Yeah, I wouldn’t be up for that either, Eddie). On the other hand, Wolfheart’s Richie provides laughs through his comedic comments on some of the more terrifying tense scenes of the movie. These two performances provide the comedic relief, which is so very important in a film of this level of tension. Without them, the film would still work as a straight Horror, but would be a lot less enjoyable.
At this point, I guess it’s time to address the most anticipated Curry comparison, as we see how Bill Skarsgård’s rendition stands up against his clown counterpart. To be honest, it must have been tough for Skarsgård, to try and fit into the oversized clown shoes of Tim Curry; also with Pennywise the “Dancing Clown” being the titular antagonist of the movie, the weight on Skarsgård’s shoulders must have been enormous. Despite this, Skarsgård steals the show, as this new undeniably unnerving version of ‘It’. His performance is unpredictable, as his style of scaring changes at the snap of your fingers. Pennywise goes from undeniably terrifying to darkly silly within the same scene, which really shows Skarsgård’s tremendously terrifying range and the spookily spontaneous nature of the character. One very vivid scene from the movie sees Eddie’s first encounter with the clown, and the sheer look of intense horror on his face which duplicates that of the audiences’ expression in every screening.
As you sit back in your cinema seat ready to enjoy the film, with a coke in one hand and a bag of popcorn in the other, you are safe with the knowledge that nothing scary will happen in the first half. It usually all kicks off later in the film, right? Wrong. The film’s first scene recreates easily the most iconic sequence from both the original series and the book. We see Georgie, Bill’s younger brother, carelessly cantering after a paper boat, as the rain makes an impromptu river down the guttering of the street. As the rain starts to turn heavier, the boat is swiftly sucked into a storm drain by the water’s current. Then as he leans closer into the drain, with some hope of finding his boat, a chilling voice cuts through the unrelenting sound of the rain. “Hiya Georgie”. What happens after this point is cut from the original, due to its graphic nature, and I was expecting the same from this version of the story. But, at the point where the series cuts away, the film does not. I won’t spoil it here, as I truly believe this is an experience to be stunned by upon first viewing, but suffice to say the film graphically depicts the brutal event, exactly how it is written in the book; narrative and all. This scene is perfectly executed, with dark cinematography to effectively express the solemn mood.
As a whole, this film is a white knuckled roller coaster ride, through a circus of supernatural and human horrors. With stunning reviews and a general shriek of positivity from audiences, it’s safe to say that the movie will only continue to float higher than its 1990 predecessor, both in terms of quality and cult status. I bet it won’t be long before Skarsgård ascends to the same level of notoriety as Curry’s clown character, and we see folks dressing as this new form of Pennywise at Halloween (scaring the hell out of anyone they encounter – me included), and frankly for that performance he deserves the praise. The film succeeds through excellent child acting, a uniquely unhinged portrayal of Pennywise with detailed directing from Andy Muschietti. ‘It’ is delightfully horrific, and to Horror fans new and old, I could not recommend it enough.