For an entire generation of movie lovers, one TV mini-series strikes fear in their hearts the way no movie can. Stephen King’s IT marked a point where people became terrified of clowns and spiders, along with the bathroom sink. Partly due to putting children in danger and also coming from the mind of the master of the macabre, it was a cultural event like no other. Three decades after it was unleashed upon the world, IT gets a long-overdue documentary in the form of Pennywise: The Story of It.
Unfolding over nine chapters, Chris Griffiths’ exhaustive making-of-feature dives into every facet of IT‘s production. From the early days as an almost impenetrable tome to the final product, there’s nary a beat that isn’t covered here. Griffiths summons everyone involved in the mini-series to expound upon their experience and the lasting legacy the landmark event has left behind.
That’s not hyperbole, mind you, as Pennywise is essentially nothing but wall-to-wall talking head interviews and archival footage. It’s ok mostly due to the talent that’s been assembled. Director Tommy Lee Wallace, writer Lawrence Cohen, special effects supervisor Bart Mixon, and a slew of other behind-the-scene figures chart every step of the production. Impressively, they’ve managed to round up all the actors who played the leads both as kids and adults (save for those who have sadly passed).
Unquestionably the highlight here is a series of new interviews with Tim Curry. The legendary actor suffered a major stroke back in 2012, shifting his focus away from being on screen and doing mostly voice acting. Yet hearing him share intimate details from working on the mini-series elevates the documentary several notches.
On the other side of things, there’s simultaneously too much and not enough content in Pennywise. It might be counterproductive to suggest, but at nearly two hours something is missing. Namely, it lacks any spotlight on the fans. Those who were inspired by the film, either artistically or otherwise, rather than just showing brief glimpses of convention floors. That way it could compete with the best “making of” docs out there. A legacy isn’t worth much if you aren’t able to show the impact that made.
Ultimately biggest issue Pennywise faces is that of “timing”. The last decade has seen labels like Vinegar Syndrome, Arrow, and other expand significantly when it comes to home video releases. With extensive documentaries becoming their bread and butter in terms highly touted special features. Meaning that any making-of feature needs some extra pizazz or a unique hook to stand out from the crowd. Pennywise: The Story of IT may be an in-depth documentary, though it has neither of the above. Coming off merely as an entertaining and almost overwhelming time-passer more than anything else. Only die-hard fans and completionists need to seek this one out.
(Panic Fest) Review: ‘Pennywise: The Story of IT’ Is An Exhaustive & Exhausting Documentary On The Beloved ’90s Mini-Series