In for a Pennywise, Out for a Clown

It – SPOILERS! (Do I need to put in the warning, or is that not something people bother with anymore?) I’ve never read the book (or anything by Stephen King, actually), but I did see the miniseries some time ago. I didn’t realize before coming into it that this was only half the story, but it makes sense considering how much there is. My first thought when seeing the new Pennywise was that he was way over the top, and this might have been a case where less is more.

Having seen the movie, he was generally too silly to be particularly scary, although the stuff going on around him tended to make up for it in terms of creepiness. There were a lot of weirdly eerie scenes. Really, though, the most disturbing parts involved the psychotic bullies, one of whom tried to carve his name in another kid’s belly with a switchblade, and later almost shot a cat. You could kind of root for Pennywise to kill them. Insane bullies are pretty common in the films I’ve seen based on King’s stories; regular bullies are bad enough, but these tend to be downright murderous. There are also a lot of parents who are abusive in various ways. Don’t you think that, after your parents were burned to death in the same house you were in, you might be rather squeamish about killing sheep? Then again, the grandfather was also probably still in mourning to some extent. I did find it odd that the kid who lived on a farm was home-schooled; I don’t know how his grandfather would have had the time (or the money, if he hired a tutor) for that. I was told that the kid with asthma did take placebos because his mom had Munchausen by Proxy (maybe not specifically identified as such, but that sounds like what it was) in the book, but it’s strange that the one who revealed that information in this movie was some weird girl at the drugstore. What reason would he have to believe her? It seems like Pennywise went down pretty easily in the end as well, although of course he’s not totally gone. But anyway, I think it was an effective film, and the performances were good. Also, they played the first verse of XTC’s “Dear God,” and a poster in Beverly’s room mentioned the Young Fresh Fellows (opening for the Replacements). I would think they should have used Modest Mouse, not because I’m a fan but because, you know, we’ll all float on, okay.

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10 Responses to In for a Pennywise, Out for a Clown

  1. Anthony Will says:

    Nathan you need to read The Stand

  2. rocketdave says:

    I don’t know if I’m that keen on seeing the movie, seeing as it doesn’t have the giant space turtle from the book.

    Aside from The Dead Zone, It is the only other Stephen King book I’ve read. That was years ago, but one thing I think I remember thinking at the time is that the coming of age story was interesting enough on its own that it almost didn’t really even need the evil clown. I suppose one of King’s strengths as a writer is that he’s able to create fairly believable worlds that feel like normal, everyday life, which makes it more unnerving when unearthly forces intrude… though I don’t know why the bullies in his stories always seem to be such one dimensional psychopaths. That does ring false to me. I got picked on more than my fair share in school, but I never ran into any kids that were just irredeemably evil.

    The other impression I took away from the book was that King may have written himself into a corner by making Pennywise so powerful that it felt implausible that the protagonists would actually have any way of defeating him, except via some mystical mumbo jumbo that I still don’t fully understand.

    • Nathan says:

      Maybe the giant space turtle is in the second part. Wait, does it have both a giant spider AND a giant turtle?

      Did King have to deal with particularly bad bullies in his youth? At one point in the movie, the bully leader says his gang leaving Billy alone for a while because his brother had died, but is that really consistent with someone who tries to carve his name into a kid and shoot a cat? Yeah, he was presumably influenced by Pennywise, but that doesn’t explain the similarly deranged bullies in Stand by Me or Christine.

      • rocketdave says:

        In the book, the turtle, Maturin, is a being from outside of time and space (the same place It came from) who accidentally created our universe when he vomited it up. He serves as a benevolent force in the story, helping out the Losers Club. It seems to me that if they were going to include him, it would have been in this movie because when the Losers Club confronts It again as adults, they find out that the turtle has died in the meantime, having choked to death on a galaxy. Weirdly, whenever I see a video referencing Maturin (and I’ve seen a few lately), they show a picture of A’Tuin from Discworld instead.

        It isn’t actually a spider. In the miniseries, they made Pennywise’s true form a spider and left it at that, but in the book, It’s some sort of indescribable cosmic horror that the human mind is incapable of comprehending. A spider is the closest thing to its true appearance that humans can understand, apparently.

        I’ve also thought it plausible that Stephen King had some bad experiences with bullies as a kid and is exorcizing those demons through his writing. I guess I’m a little different. I tend not to dwell too much on past wrongs. I actually just had to tell an author I couldn’t illustrate his book for him because there was a bully in it I absolutely hated and I didn’t want to have to deal with that stuff. There were other aspects of the book that I didn’t like aside from just that, but the bullying hit a little too close to home for me.

      • Nathan says:

        So the closest things King can come up with to indescribable cosmic horror are spiders and clowns?

        King and Pratchett were probably both inspired by world-carrying turtle myths, although more directly so in the latter. Were there ever any illustrations of Maturin?

  3. rocketdave says:

    You know, I don’t think there are any illustrations of Maturin, and I can kinda understand why people would use art of A’Tuin in his place. But because Maturin isn’t described as having four elephants supporting a flat world on his back, it strikes me as a bit lazy. “Oh, all giant cosmic turtles look alike to you, huh?” It would almost make more sense to just use a picture of a normal turtle. Maybe Photoshop some image from the Hubble in the background. It would be relatively simple.

    On second thought, maybe it’s just as well Maturin isn’t in the movie. If they ever do a big screen version of Discworld, it would be super annoying to hear ill-informed moviegoers all making the same joke about how the giant turtle makes them think of the movie with the child-murdering clown.

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