[Documentary Review] PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT

[Documentary Review] PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT
When 2017 hit, the horror community found common ground in their excitement that a full theatrical production was finally hitting the screens with a new adaptation of Stephen King’s It. Of course, I went on opening night and should not have been surprised to not only see a sold-out crowd but many parents who brought their kids. They did this to not be malicious, but Pennywise is such a cultural icon that many kids (and adults) know Pennywise as a boogeyman, and they were treating this almost like when you take a kid to a haunted house attraction. During certain scare sequences, you could see the joy in the parents when their kids screamed and wanted to experience the terror with them. I have never and still never experienced something like that before at the movies. Whether or not one felt this new iteration was faithful or successful (though no one can doubt its astonishing financial success), it felt like a true event experience.

I also grew up on the 1990 miniseries and was terrified. I wasn’t necessarily scared of Pennywise, but some of the scenarios the kids were put in. I wouldn’t go near drains in the street. I never accepted tea from old people. However, I honestly never knew much about the behind-the-scenes of the miniseries. I rewatched it after finally reading the book in my 30s and felt it actually was pretty faithful with the censorship exceptions but that’s to be expected.

PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT is the definitive tell-all about the miniseries. Running just over two hours, PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT goes from the origins of the book to the response and pop culture impact that movie made. Interviews with the cast and crew including director Tommy Lee Wallace and actors Seth Green, Tim Curry, Emily Perkins, and many more. What’s beautiful about it is that they see the same problematic issues as we do, but are proud overall and love the impact that it’s made.

Deleted scenes are dissected, differences from the book due to political reasons, and the universal dislike of the spider at the end. Part of what I loved the most was the combination of both new and archival footage. I could be wrong but I don’t recall previous home video releases of the movie having any behind-the-scenes footage. The variety of crew speaking helps put that picture together and love seeing how the press and actors reacted during the press tour as well. What the younger generation doesn’t have to experience is the extreme censorship that existed on television back then. Now, violence is just as graphic as it is in the movies (just as long we don’t have women enjoying sex onscreen), but the miniseries faced some obstacles. Although there’s hardly any violence, the content scared some advertisers. Those who chose to stick around paid off due to the successfully large viewership.

If I came back with one thing from this documentary, it’s the testament to Tim Curry’s acting. There is a segment that delves into all the makeup tests for Pennywise, most of them scary variations. Eventually, Curry just told the crew to make him a straight, happy clown and he will take care of the scary with his acting. It worked and that is something this miniseries has over the theatrical remake.

PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT doesn’t suffer from useless facts or skipping over details. This is everything you needed and wanted to know about Pennywise and comes highly recommended.

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Jovy Skol
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