Makeup hor­ror sto­ries

Pen­ny­wise is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of all your wildest fears

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - Front Page - Richard crouse movie Rat­ings by Richard crouse

Clowns are creepy. Their grotesque shiny red lips, baggy suits and weirdly coloured tufts of hair re­ally dis­turb some peo­ple. While most of us see Ron­ald Mcdon­ald as a nice cor­po­rate sym­bol, the eight per cent of the pop­u­la­tion that suffers from clowno­pho­bia — more prop­erly called coul­ro­pho­bia — views him as evil in­car­nate. The mere men­tion of the In­sane Clown Posse — a mix of gangsta rap and grease paint — is enough to in­spire night­mares in the clown chal­lenged. Silent screen hor­ror leg­end Lon Chaney Sr. tried to ex­plain the fear. “A clown is funny in the cir­cus ring,” he said, “but what would be the re­ac­tion to open­ing a door at mid­night and find­ing the same clown stand­ing there?”

Among the movie stand­outs in the sub-sub-sub­genre of “clown hor­ror” are The Clown at Mid­night, wherein a num­ber of at­trac­tive young­sters get hacked to death by a psy­cho in a Bozo cos­tume, and the es­caped con­victs of Clown­house, who mur­der cir­cus clowns, steal their iden­ti­ties and their cos­tumes for a wild killing spree. Then there’s the self-ex­plana­tory Killer Klowns From Outer Space. “They’re not clowns, they’re some sort of an­i­mal from another world that look just like our clowns. Maybe their an­cients came to our planet cen­turies ago and our idea of clowns comes from them!”

This week­end a new ver­sion of the ter­ri­fy­ing Pen­ny­wise the Danc­ing Clown comes to screens. In 1990 Tim Curry brought the glistening-lipped, child-eat­ing crea­ture to life in the TV minis­eries It. His per­for­mance was so dis­turbingly re­al­is­tic that on the DVD com­men­tary his co-stars note they avoided him dur­ing the film­ing.

This week­end Pen­ny­wise re­turns in the big screen adap­ta­tion of It. Played by Bill Skars­gård, he is a makeup-clad man­i­fes­ta­tion of all your fears. He’s the stuff of night­mares, a shape-shifter who adapts to the in­se­cu­ri­ties and anx­i­eties of his vic­tims. He taunts the kids — for in­stance he ap­pears to Ed­die the hypochon­driac as, “a leper and walk­ing in­fec­tion” — re­pelling and lur­ing them with the things that ter­rify them most. It’s creepy enough to make you re­think your next trip to the cir­cus.

Bozo the Clown he ain’t. Un­like Curry’s co-stars the kids of the new It weren’t in­tim­i­dated by Pen­ny­wise, off screen at least.

“They tried to keep us apart but when we met him we al­ready knew this guy is just an ac­tor,” said Van­cou­ver-born Finn Wolfhard. “We’re not re­ally freaked out by him. We are in the movie but he’s a re­ally good dude in real life. We love him.”

In fact, most of the cast said clowns were not high on their list of ter­ri­fy­ing things.

“I never re­ally got the point of clowns,” said Sophia Lil­lis. “No of­fense, clowns. Maybe when I was re­ally young I was afraid of them be­cause they have all this makeup and baggy clothes and give candy to chil­dren. It’s a lit­tle off-putting.”

Wolfhard agrees. “It is a lit­tle off-putting. Maybe it’s be­cause they’re al­ways happy.”

Cho­sen Ja­cobs thinks It will trig­ger a new wave of coul­ro­pho­bia. “Our gen­er­a­tion lacked a hor­ror film that brought the fear back to clowns. I think now that It is com­ing out this gen­er­a­tion and the next gen­er­a­tion will re­gain that fear. At least we can say we changed the world! That’s our con­tri­bu­tion.”


Bill skars­gård stars as Pen­ny­wise the Danc­ing clown in It.

For Metro Canada

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