“It” has become a cultural phenomenon. The original “miniseries” from 1990 terrified a generation of now-adults with a hilarious/wildly-scary performance from Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown and truly atrocious acting from everybody else in the cast (aside from adult Mike, played from Tim Reid, who has amazing quips throughout the movie).
These days, “It” has seized a new generation, playing off both the miniseries and the original source material from what is arguably Stephen King’s best work to make a two-part modern horror opus. That opus, though, has questionable results. 2017’s “It” was a captivating resurrection, including a scarier-than-ever Pennywise, an outstanding cast playing the kids of Derry’s Loser Club led by Finn Wolfhard and resounding box-office success, setting the record for the highest-grossing horror movie of all-time. Yet, it’s recently-released sequel, “It Chapter Two,” has its fair share of flaws: between a heavy reliance on CGI, a regurgitated plot from the first film and an adult Mike who, instead of being the sole good adult character, is the sole bad adult character with an incredibly two-dimensional role, the film falters a bit from its predecessor.
(SIDEBAR: The one entertaining thing Mike does do is act as Bill’s spiritual guide through a hell of an ayahuasca trip that brings him to the beginning of the universe, along with the birth of It, so that’s something, I guess, if you’re into a weird, reclusive librarian slipping a hallucinogenic into somebody’s drink to show them some truths, man, that the government doesn’t want us to see. Cue Hyde from “That 70s Show”: The government has a car that runs on water, man! It’s got a fiber glass, air cooled engine and it runs on water!)
With that being said, both modern versions of “It” are fun and engrossing and scary, and while the sequel feels extremely Hollywood-ified, we still get Bill Hader absolutely killing as grown-up Richie and Pennywise using his two signature phrases: “Beep beep, Richie!” and “Kiss me, fat boy!”
But now, after a series of run-on sentences, digressions and sidebars on government conspiracies, we come to the real reason we’re here: Would I survive a night with Pennywise the Dancing Clown?
Because there are two versions of Pennywise, let’s say I get two heavyweight bouts: one versus Bill Skarsgård’s rendition, and one versus Tim Curry’s rendition. Our ring is the infamous town of Derry, where a clown nibbles on the hands of children and makes terrible dad jokes to his heart’s content (“Is your refrigerator running? Because you better go catch it!” is one of Tim Curry’s best lines as Pennywise), and our referee is… uhhh… let’s say both versions of Richie, so we can get Finn Wolfhard and Bill Hader both telling me they had a sexual encounter with my mother as I fend off jabs from a clown with far too many teeth.
In the wise, meditative prose of Sir Michael Buffer: Let’s get ready to RUUUUUMBLE.
Pennywise the Dad Joke Tim Curry vs. Caleb “Nathan” Jagoda:
I would laugh far too much trying to fend off Tim Curry in a clown suit to have any chance of survival. He would jump around, tell me jokes that are only funny because he’s wearing lipstick and trying to kill me, and would take advantage of my real weakness: showing me a picture of grown-up Bill’s rat tail in the 1990 “It.” His jokes would be too much; I’d find him so hilarious that he’d trick me into sitting down next to him on a stoop and shooting the wind, laughing about our glory days back in the 80s and drinking 40s, shooting some dice and reminiscing of the days we used to run this city. Truly and honestly, it would be too much. Tim Curry kills me from laughter before the sun even sets.
Pennywise the Spooky Bill Skarsgård versus Caleb “Nathan” Jagoda
This one would be a little different. Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise isn’t funny at all; he’s simply terrifying, mostly from the CGI, but also because of Skarsgård’s creepy buck teeth and slow, deliberate head turning. Plus, the tactics he uses to scare the Losers Club are bone-chilling: he nibbles on a kid’s arm, he crawls out of a projector at over 10 feet tall, he does that thing where he sprints at you and his head shakes like an unhinged maraca. He also has way, way more teeth, and at one point has a mouth that’s essentially that of a Godzilla-sized alligator.
But, let’s look at Skarsgård’s efficiency rating. Sure, he polishes off a couple of people, like the little girl under the bleachers or the half-dead guy that gets tossed over the bridge in the beginning of “It Chapter Two,” but how hard were these kills to execute? I mean, really, how difficult were they? Sure, he did eat that little girl in one bite – but she was 5 years old! Aside from style points, how hard is it to kill a 5-year-old? How hard is it to kill someone floating in a river who’s already half dead? He’s got all the flair in the world, but after transforming to a fanged Clifford the Big Red Dog and only managing to kill one of the adults in the Losers Club, should I fear for my life? I’m not so sure.
I escape this bout by doing ayahuasca with a lonely librarian and letting Skarsgård claw his face to his heart’s content (which was probably the scariest scene in the movie; he did it as he was putting on the clown makeup and made his face-blood transform into Pennywise’s makeup, which was wild. Too bad he only hurt himself doing it and not any of the children he’s supposed to be killing).
Beep beep, Richie.