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Cast and trailer audience agree — ‘It’ movie’s Pennywise clown is terrifying

In the big-screen version of Stephen King’s “It,” Bill Skarsgard plays killer clown Pennywise as a darker, more demonic character than the creepy version Tim Curry played in the TV mini-series that aired in 1990.
In the big-screen version of Stephen King’s “It,” Bill Skarsgard plays killer clown Pennywise as a darker, more demonic character than the creepy version Tim Curry played in the TV mini-series that aired in 1990. © WARNER BROTHERS

An audience at South by Southwest got to see what the young cast already knows about the new Pennywise in the big-screen version of Stephen King’s “It.”

That dude is freakin’ scary.

The first trailer for the film, set for a Sept. 8 debut, was shown over the weekend at the music and film festival in Austin.

Bill Skarsgard plays the killer clown as a darker, more demonic Pennywise than the creepy character Tim Curry played in the 1990 TV mini-series, based on King’s 1986 horror novel.

The SXSW audience wasn’t allowed to record the 90-second trailer. But according to one blogger on the Bloody Disgusting horror movie website, the feeling in the theater got so tense leading up to one particular scene that it left the “audience screaming.”

“As far as teasers go,” writes Trace Thurman, “it’s one of the best that I’ve ever seen.”

“It” takes place in a small town in Maine where seven children, known as the motley Losers’ Club, meet the evil clown called Pennywise.

The new trailer opens with a remake of a scene from the mini-series. A young boy makes a paper boat for his little brother, Georgie, who chases after the boat when it floats away during a rainstorm. The boat floats into the gutter.

“As he looks deep into the sewers, Pennywise abruptly appears before the screen cuts to black,” Thurman describes.

“Then we are shown the members of the Losers’ Club meeting each other and realizing that they’ve all been seeing the same entity, before one of them finally says ‘The Clown.’ 

Next, the club members are looking at pictures on a carousel slide projector that scarily spins out of control, speedily flipping through slides which, eventually, reveal Georgie’s mother as Pennywise.

The teaser ends with Bill, leader of the Losers’ Club, walking into a flooded basement while being taunted by a ghost. Then, in the moment that left the audience screaming, Pennywise rushes at him before the screen cuts to black and the word “It” appears on the screen.

“Now, I am fully aware that this is just a teaser trailer. It was maybe 90 seconds of footage, but it was a damn impressive 90 seconds of footage,” Thurman writes. “The movie could still turn out to be terrible, but based on what was shown in Austin tonight, that seems highly unlikely.”

The movie’s director, Andrés Muschietti, has kept secret most of the details about the movie. But during the presentation in Austin he confirmed that Skarsgard’s Pennywise is more sinister than Curry’s.

“Curry’s clown was a cartoonish nightmare in need of dental hygiene,” notes The Verge. “Skarsgard’s Pennywise has a far more sinister edge, marked by piercing yellow eyes and contorted movements.”

Muschietti revealed how he kept Skarsgard separated from the movie’s child actors until their first very encounter on set. The kids were sure they wouldn’t be scared, he said.

“The day that he showed up on the stage, they (freaking) freaked out,” Muschietti told the Austin audience. “Bill is like, 7-foot high, and I can’t describe how scary he looks in person. He’s a wiry man, crouching, making sounds, snotting, drooling, speaking in Swedish sometimes. Terrifying.”

Muschietti downplayed rumors that an “It: Part 2” will begin filming this month.

“It’s just a complete misinterpretation of the facts,” he said, according to the Verge. “It’s not happening now. We’re in the midst of post (production).”

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