Pennywise: The Story of IT (2021)
Directed by: Chris Griffiths, John Campopiano
Written by: Gary Smart, John Campopiano
Starring: Adam Faraizl, Bart Mixon, Dennis Christopher, Emily Perkins, Frank C. Turner, Jarred Blancard, Lawrence D. Cohen, Marlon Taylor, Richard Bellis, Richard Masur, Richard Thomas, Seth Green, Tim Curry, Tim Reid, Tommy Lee Wallace
Calling all fans of the 1990 television mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT is the documentary you’ve been waiting for!
Split into nine chapters, the fan-funded documentary deals with everything from the initial idea to adapt Stephen King’s bumper story into a series to the film’s legacy, and everything in between. Everyone from screenwriter Lawrence Cohen to director Tommy Lee Wallace are present on the doc, as well as most of the kid actors (now adults) who starred as The Losers Club and the bullies, and quite a few of the adult actors too, such as Richard Thomas (Bill), Tim Reid (Mike Hanlon) and Richard Masur (Stanley). Notably, there’s no Annette O’Toole, but her younger counterpart Emily Perkins is present on the documentary along with Frank C. Turner who played her father Al Marsh and it’s fascinating to see how their dynamic was on set, as Marsh made a point of reassuring her after every take due to the intensity and nastiness of his character towards hers.
Seeing all the kids actors now grown up and reminiscing about their time working on the mini-series is a joy to behold. What I found personally interesting was discovering how the adult actors would hang out with their younger co-stars and work with them to build a character together that they could share. With some of the kids not looking too much like their adult counterparts, having certain gestures, nervous tics and other gestures could bind them together to make the viewer believe that the adult we’re watching on screen is indeed the grown up version of the kid we watched in the first half of the mini-series.
PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT wouldn’t be complete without the man himself, Mr Tim Curry, and I’m pleased to say he’s present on the documentary and gives a little insight into the role and his opinion on the TV mini-series. We learn how he was picked for the role, and a chapter is dedicated to the creation of Pennywise, deciding on what his look would be and Curry’s receptiveness to having a face laden with prosthesis. It’s interesting to see how much input he had on the final version of Pennywise and I’m glad he stuck to his guns because the version we see on screen is brilliant. Whilst the remake’s version of Pennywise, starring Bill Skarsgård as the ‘dancing clown’, was scarier in many ways, Tim Curry’s Pennywise is the definitive horror icon of the character for me. Curry’s version of Pennywise is a fun embodiment of a clown – easy on the eye and wildly entertaining, which is how he can lure kids in and encourage them to drop their guard, whereas Skarsgård’s version was terrifying to begin with so could never take advantage of the element of surprise (in my eyes, at least). Where recent Pennywise efforts have just tried to make him a character to instil terror from the get-go, Curry’s Pennywise has charisma and charm. The energy that Tim Curry brings to the role is fantastic, and when he switches to being sinister it is truly a chilling work of art.
As well as exploring the story, scripting, casting and filming, the documentary also spends time with some of the FX and makeup gurus. We see how certain scenes were put together, such as the scene in which the kids browse the book with the photo of Pennywise in, and the introduction of the werewolf and mummy costumes. It also highlights the design of IT’s final on-screen form, the spider, and some of the people interviewed on the documentary aren’t afraid of saying that it was the weakest segment of the adaptation. Despite my personal thoughts on the spider, the design work of the creature was quite brilliant and in this documentary we get to see it up close and learn how it was put together and used in the performance.
Seeing the behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew and takes of various scenes, as well as hearing stories about the camaraderie and mischief the kids and adults got up to, and the different problems Lawrence Cohen and Tommy Lee Wallace had to overcome, is an enthralling treat.
At just over two hours long, this is a cracking documentary for horror fans and is wonderfully put together to satisfy viewers and take them on a trip down memory lane. This is perhaps one of the best movie documentaries I’ve seen in a while, especially for the fact they’ve secured many of the cast and crew that worked on the film – I’m just so happy they chose to be a part of it. The editing is slick and ample time is given for the numerous stars and crew to discuss their thoughts and feelings on the movie. I just wish it could have gone on and on!
An incredible treat for IT fans that you’ll not want to miss.