Arriving just in time for Halloween this year is the new docu-film, Pennywise: The Story of IT. The film is a feature-length documentary, which takes a look back at the hugely successful and nightmare-inducing 1990 television mini-series IT, which in turn was based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
Featuring input from those involved in the mini-series, both in front of and behind the camera, Pennywise: The Story of IT offers up a detailed insight into one of the most iconic horror stories to ever grace the small screen. The IT mini-series was a huge hit at the beginning of the ‘90s, it terrorised a whole generation, remains beloved to this day, and this docu-film wants to remind us all why.
From script writer Lawrence D. Cohen and director Tommy Lee Wallace, through to actors including Seth Green, Tim Curry, Richard Thomas, and Tim Reid, Pennywise: The Story of IT serves up a detailed discussion about its subject matter, uncovering the reasons why the mini-series was such a success. It highlights the process of bringing Pennywise to life, the importance of casting Tim Curry, and the desire to make this adaptation as scary as possible while keeping in mind it was appearing on TV!
The docu-film is largely composed of new interviews, along with some archival footage, and includes plenty of clips from the mini-series to help illustrate the story. Pennywise: The Story of IT is presented as one long piece, which looks at different themes and topics, although structurally it is broken down into individual chapters.
Most of the surviving major players are involved with this film, although there are a couple of noticeable absences; namely actress Annette O’Toole and author Stephen King. In the case of King, there is some archival footage to help lend his voice to the film, but these fuzzy old excerpts don’t really add much to the documentary.
With regard to the actors who are no longer with us (John Ritter, Harry Anderson, and Jonathan Brandis), there is time to mention their contributions, and discussions about Brandis in particular do pull at the heartstrings. The actor tragically died at the age of 27 and there is a collective sense that he should still be here, talking about the mini-series along with his peers.
Moving beyond the actors, Pennywise: The Story of IT highlights the set pieces and practical effects behind IT, and this in turn leads to some interesting insights into how everything was put together. A couple of minutes are spent on the iconic rain-soaked opening, and there are sections devoted to the Chinese restaurant scene, the shower room, and the (pretty ropey) showdown with the spider.
Across the course of this movie’s two-hour run-time, Pennywise: The Story of IT lifts the lid on all of the stuff fans remember, and chucks in a few things that are less well-known. This docu-film is very much a celebration of a horror icon, made with love by those who care about the project and who have worked hard to retell its story.
It does play a bit like an extended DVD extra (remember those, kids?), rather than a must-see documentary, but if you’re a big fan of the mini-series, you’ll likely want to check it out. To have most of the actors and production talent all gathered together to talk about IT, 32 years on from its debut, is something unlikely to happen again any time soon.
It is also worth watching this documentary for every time Tim Curry pops up to pass a comment about the mini-series. Curry’s involvement is limited, but is pure gold, occasionally humorous, and in light of his health condition it is invaluable.
Should you wish to check out Pennywise: The Story of IT for yourself, the movie – which is directed by Christopher Griffiths and John Campopiano –is currently available to purchase via video-on-demand platforms in the UK. The DVD and Blu-ray release arrives on October 24th.