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Review – Pennywise: The Story of It – “An impressively all-encompassing documentary”

Pennywise: The Story of It is a feature-length documentary about the making of the two-part television adaptation of Stephen King’s smash horror novel, It, that is directed by John Campopiano (Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary) and Chris Griffiths (You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night).

Stephen King’s It tells the story of the Losers Club, a group of outcasts on the cusp of puberty who are menaced by a supernatural killer clown, Pennywise. After vanquishing ‘It’ as children, the Losers make a pact to return to their hometown if Pennywise should ever rise again. Twenty-seven years later, ‘It’ does return to scare the life out of children before killing them, and the adult Losers reunite to defeat It for good this time.

Andy Muschietti most recently adapted the text into a pair of blockbuster horror films, but the first crack at adapting the material was actually on the small screen in 1990, where it screened as an epic two-part television event. Campopiano and Griffiths’ film features interviews with (almost) everybody involved that you could think of, making Pennywise: The Story of It an incredibly comprehensive documentary. Nimbly working its way through pre-production to shooting, and then post-production and the show’s legacy too in just a smidge over two hours, no stone is left unturned or story left untold.

Full of stories and recollections from the grown-up child cast, including Austin Powers’ Seth Green and Ginger Snaps’ Emily Perkins, the actors who played their adult versions, including Ozark’s Richard Thomas, and even the killer clown who went on to haunt three generations’ of viewers nightmares: Tim Curry.

Even if you know the source material well there is plenty here that you won’t know and it is all told by not only the actors but also director Tommy Lee Wallace with warmth and love. The one hole in the interviewees is Stephen King himself, but he is still fairly well represented with plenty of archive footage that even a Constant Reader like myself had never seen before and that shows his mischievous side as well as his total grasp of how to tell a horrifying story in nothing but two lines.

The general consensus on Part Two, featuring the adult Losers Club feels unnecessarily harsh. The rubbish spider aside, it is nowhere near the write-off it is popular to characterise it as. And, on the spider monster, there is stacks of footage and interviews showing that it actually was a really amazing animatronic that could do a lot more than we saw in It: Part Two – it was just all filmed in a rush, leaving the puppeteers and special effects whizz’s gutted not to have been given the opportunity to show what it could do.

Whereas there’s less Stephen King than you would like, there is a very welcome and brilliant amount of Tim Curry. Clearly not in the best of health at the time, he is still extremely charismatic and full of glee when telling tales of how he would scare the bejesus out of the kid and adult Losers alike!

Some documentaries of this nature, cough, In Search of Darkness, cough, are unnecessarily over four hours long, but it is to Campopiano and Griffiths’ credit that Pennywise just puts its toe over the two-hour line and still flies by. Properly edited and not just including every single thing, but actually shaped into a proper narrative you won’t want it to end, but you will want to put the miniseries on, then re-read the book, then watch the films straight after.

Final verdict:
An impressively all-encompassing documentary detailing the creation and legacy of a horror icon.

Pennywise: The Story of It will be available on Digital Download from the 3rd of October and Blu-ray & DVD from the 24th of October.

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