The new Pennywise’s costume is bold, creepy…and a little baffling

08.16.16 1 year ago

When I first saw the new Pennywise's clown costume, I was a little taken aback. Is that a dress? Is Pennywise starring in the new Jane Austen mashup?


When viewed in its full measure, the costume turned out to be far more multi-dimensional than it initially appeared, though it's still a little disconcerting; there are lot of frills and ruffles and puffy things there that evoke distinct periods from English history, and it's a drastically different look from the one sported by Tim Curry when he played the character in 1990. I'm still processing this, but costume designer Janie Bryant provides a pretty detailed explanation for the different facets of the look over at EW, which at least offers some context:

“The costume definitely incorporates all these otherworldly past lives, if you will,” Bryant said. “He is definitely a clown from a different time.”

Here's the full look:

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

I'm not yet sure how to feel about Bryant's take on the character (here played by Bill Skarsgard), but I appreciate that she clearly put a lot of thought into the design and grounded it in some solid reasoning based on the character's description in Stephen King's novel. In its patchwork, time-hopping weirdness, the costume is suggestive and quite scary, and I like the makeup design (nice touch with the prominent front teeth). I'm guessing this won't be to everyone's tastes and will garner some ribbing from fans for its “effeminate” touches, but who says Pennywise has to dress in traditionally “male” garb? It is an ancient evil that transcends gender or easy categorization.

That said, I defy anyone to claim that a child with a working fight-or-flight impulse would be effectively lured by this thing, which is the entire purpose of the clown costume to begin with. I wonder if a lighter, cheerier appearance would have been a bolder way to go, and truer to the clown guise's ultimate intent. I also wonder whether these “first looks” end up doing more harm than good to a film in the increasingly-hypercritical online sphere.

The first part of Andres Muschietti's two-part adaptation is slated to hit theaters on September 8, 2017.

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