The Definitive Pennywise: A Way, Way Too Early Comparison of the Classic It Monster

By  · Published on August 18th, 2016

Tim Curry versus Bill Skarsgård. Who’s the better Dancing Clown?

I scare easily; it’s a talent of mine. I’m also good audience. When visiting one of those haunted corn maze things, I’m always jumpin’ and screamin’ and runnin’ from the guys without the chains on their chainsaws or the guys in the werewolf costumes. I enjoy pretending so much, I always make sure that there is at least one person in my group who’s slower than me – usually my date – just in case shit gets real. Someone’s got to be sacrificed. (Everyone’s got those tough guy friends who like to point out what’s fake or who generally mock the poor schmucks trying their best to provide people with a few thrills. It’s the weakest way imaginable to “impress” people with “toughness”. If you’re one of those guys, you suck.) People in clown outfits and makeup are always the scariest. I’m pretty sure I’m coulrophobic, which isn’t an actual, clinically listed disorder, but it’s just as palpable as any other fear of mine, so get on it, medical community. I’m 100% sure that that fear stems from watching Stephen King’s It as a child.

The Losers Club. That’s not mean! That’s what they’re called in the story.

The 3 hour plus, made-for-TV epic starring Tim Curry as the titular villain – otherwise known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown – just goes to show you don’t need an excess of blood, gore, or violence to properly induce maximum amounts of emotional distress. It is being remade into a feature film for 2017, and the new Losers Club members includes a bunch of kids I didn’t recognize and two I did: Jaeden Lieberher from Midnight Special and Finn Wolfhard (greatest real name ever nominee) from Netflix’s Stranger Things. The real focus, as it should be, has been on Bill Skarsgård who’s taking over the role made famous by Curry. Which begs the question: who’s the better Pennywise? I’ve figured it out. You may think it’s too early to compare the two, as we have only seen two pictures of Skarsgård as It, and judging now would be like judging a book by its cover. On the contrary: it’s so early, it’s more like judging a book by its cover while blindfolded, which is much more impressive. I’ve broken the grading criteria down to several categories. They’re scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being like an F- and a 10 being an A++, like you aced the test and got all the bonus questions right, too.

Scary Rating

I’ll try to be as objective as possible here, but Tim Curry has dominated my nightmares since my time as a wee youth. His bulbous forehead and malleable face form the perfect combination of fear. Much like Alan Rickman commandeering my preconceived imaginational image of Snape through his exceptional performance in the Harry Potter movies, Tim Curry’s portrayal of It took over my own internal creation of “scary clown”. “Scary clown” equals Tim Curry.

Bill Skarsgård does that classic villain look where you tilt your head down, look up, and smile menacingly. That’s Being Scary 101. It brings to mind a pouncing tiger face, the ultimate predator gaze. But then that reminds me of a house cat doing the same thing to a little plushy. And then that reminds me of a baby kitty purrin’ and makin’ biscuits on my chest. Baby kitties purrin’ and makin’ biscuits on my chest isn’t scary. Skarsgård gets a few points for trying.

Curry 10/10 | Skarsgård 3/10

Scary Potential Rating

Tim Curry, as far as I know, is done with the Pennywise role. He can no longer create new scares for me. I can go back, rewatch It, and not remember certain things, so Curry gets a couple of points for my terrible memory.

Bill Skarsgård, on the other hand, has nearly limitless potential here. Who knows how he’s going to interpret the character, what he’s going to sound like, how many night terrors I’m going to have from watching the new movie. The dread of not knowing is usually more horrible than the end product. That’s why Jaws works so well when the shark isn’t seen. Skarsgård gets a perfect score here.

Curry 2/10 | Skarsgård 10/10

Clown Rating

Part of the fright of Pennywise as a movie monster is his allure to children. Supposedly, children love clowns. It’s why Georgie was so willing to keep communicating with It when he lost his paper boat in a storm drain. I can’t emphasize this enough: NO ALARMS WERE SET OFF IN THIS KID’S HEAD THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG WHEN HE WAS TALKING TO A CLOWN IN A STORM DRAIN! Curry even tells jokes in the movie, like the Prince Albert in a can one. Instead of from distress, this time I was peeing my pants from laughter! Curry loses a couple of points because he never uses a rubber chicken or gets out of a clown car with a bunch of other clowns. Those are character staples, folks.

You know Skarsgård is a clown only kinda. “Yeah, he’s got face paint and a comical outfit, but why is it so dark and why is he so dirty and why is there a perpetual fog cloud swirling around him?” – Everyone. That’s not very clown-like.

Curry 8/10 | Skarsgård 2/10

Costume Frilliness Rating

Tim Curry’s costume is certainly colorful, and he’s got some frillies around his neck. I actually thought it was the perfect amount of frill until I saw Skarsgård’s costume. Now it just looks like he’s wearing a rainbow jumpsuit.

Bill Skarsgård’s got frill for days. He’s got neck frill, shoulder puffy frills, hip skirt frills, and even frillies around his ankles. The frills are emphasized even more, because the rest of the costume is skin tight. It is the superior, frillier costume.

Curry 6/10 | Skarsgård 10/10

Unsurprisingly, Curry defeats Skarsgård. Surprisingly, it was only 26 to 25, not the landslide I initially thought. Curry is the definitive Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

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