Pennywise the Clown recently made his 21st Century appearance in an exclusive photo shoot from Entertainment Weekly.
The part, which was originally played by the terrifying Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show) in an otherwise innocuous 1990s miniseries, is now being played by Bill Skarsgard of Hemlock Grove and Allegiant fame.
Fans of the book and the miniseries had been waiting with baited breath to see what the clown monstrosity that terrorized and murdered Derry’s kids looked like, so when the photos first appeared, there was some hesitancy about what to think.
The new Pennywise looks like he could have been transplanted from an early 20th Century carnival. His forehead is huge. Skarsgard’s features are almost unrecognizable.
Yet, according to Business Insider columnist James Grebey, he “isn’t scary at all.”
Grebey, in what is sure to be a criticism that resurfaces among any negative reviews of the upcoming film, says, “It is not nearly as scary because it tries too hard,” adding that “instead of a colorful goon he’s a drab, dirty creature with a demonic expression and Victorian-era clothes. He is clearly evil.”
The point that Grebey makes throughout the rest of his article is that part of what made Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise so utterly terrifying is that he does his best to play the character as a normal clown who does horrible things, rather than a clown that is clearly horrible.
The contrast isn’t there, and, for Grebey and a growing number of armchair critics, that makes Skarsgard’s rendition of the character easy to dismiss before anyone ever sees him “in action.”
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) August 16, 2016
Grebey is not alone in his criticisms of the new Pennywise. Many on EW’s Twitter stream weighed in with mocking comments and images.
One user posted a comparison photo of Skarsgard to one of the Cats characters with the caption, “Really looking forward to the scene where #pennywise sings Memory.”
Another said that he looked like “Jerry Seinfeld in a puffy shirt,” referencing the classic sitcom’s episode where the lead and titular star inadvertently agrees to wear a puffy shirt when he can’t hear a “low talker.” He looks ridiculous as a result.
Still another commenter came right out with it.
“This doesn’t look scary at all. That face looks silly. The costume is way overdone. This is why horror remakes fail.”
All that said, not everyone was willing to close the door on this version of Pennywise. On Grebey’s own piece, there was a commenter who raised the point that it could be that the clown starts with the more colorful and seemingly benign approach of Curry and that he veers into the overtly evil territory once it’s time for the kill.
Even if that is the case, however, it tends to violate a long-held tradition in the horror genre — the more you leave to the audience’s imagination, the more likely you are to get the reaction from them that you’re looking for.
By unleashing Pennywise in his most evil form through this photo shoot, the filmmakers have positioned themselves behind the proverbial eight-ball when it comes to drawing out the suspense.
But as some have noted, maybe it’s the Pennywise a new generation of moviegoers need to be scared.
I personally love the new Pennywise. A remake should be an entirely new vision & THIS is a new vision.???????? #ItRemake pic.twitter.com/52BGZox7Gt
— LukeOfHorror (@LukeOfHorror) August 18, 2016
Whether you like Skarsgard in the role or you think Curry is unbeatable, one thing is for certain: The miniseries set a low bar for the feature film to reach in terms of overall quality.
While most critics rave about Curry’s performance, they find the rest of the film to be on the ho-hum side, with the critics and users communities of Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 67 percent and 64 percent, respectively.
But what do you think, readers? Does this Pennywise have the goods? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via Warner Bros. Television]