Species: Trans-dimensional being
Claim to fame: Terrorizing Derry, Maine.
“There ought to be one binding, horrible, nasty, gross creature kind of thing…so I thought to myself, ‘What scares children more than anything else in the world?’ And the answer was ‘Clowns’.”
- Stephen King
The 2017 reboot of Stephen King’s classic horror tale It taps into one of our most common phobias, the fear of clowns. Set in fictional Derry, Maine, the film introduces us to Pennywise the Dancing Clown, an inter-dimensional being who feasts upon terrified children.
Inspiration for Pennywise came about after a man in full clown make-up sat beside Stephen King on a flight. After shirking basic societal norms and rules of airline travel, King asked where the clown was from, getting the answer “McDonaldland”. This chance encounter led King to think deeper on why these professional children’s entertainers are so damn creepy.
The reasons for the fear of clowns are numerous and date back through history from the court jester to the circus freak. All exhibit the same unpredictability and antics that polite society would refrain from. The exaggerated makeup, clothes, hair, and accessories also contribute to the “uncanny valley” effect, where something seems just a bit off about someone’s appearance. Add up all these attributes, and it’s no wonder that many people have a natural aversion to clowns.
Pennywise takes these qualities and turns them up to an 11. Not only does It resemble a clown to take advantage of children’s fears in order to “salt the meat” and feast on their bodies, It also hails from a different dimension. This otherworldy, Lovecraftian detail only lends more credence to how unsettling Pennywise is to the children of Derry.
Bill Skarsgard’s interpretation of Pennywise gives It a modern, and terrifying twist. The year of release, 27 years after the 1990 series corresponding to Pennywise’s 27 years of hibernation also give the audience an almost meta sense of dread. However, Tim Curry’s 1990 rendition of Pennywise also deserves credit for giving Pennywise a different flavor of creepy. Instead of presenting an outward, unsettling appearance, Curry’s Pennywise has a goofy quality hiding Pennywise’s sinister motivations. This dichotomy between act and motive sends audiences the message to trust nothing regardless of appearance.
The creepy legacy of Pennywise and all his incarnations thus live on, and we look forward to see Pennywise again this Fall with the premier of It 2. Want a Pennywise of your very own? Pre-order the One:12 Collective It(2017): Pennywise here!