WASHINGTON, September 16, 2017 — When you think about it, clowns perfectly exemplify the kind of persons our parents said we should never speak to: strangers.
A clown’s makeup hides his true identity. A clown performs under a false name. A clown acts, well, strangely.
Some hospitalized children in the Chicago area, not to mention attendees to Democratic Party fundraisers, were familiar with Pogo the Clown.
While most members of his profession apply areas of facial color in soft, round curves, Pogo carefully brushed colored swaths of blue and blood-red over his broader white face into points as sharp as a butcher’s knife.
The makeup hid the face of building contractor John Wayne Gacy, killer of 33 young men, 26 of which he buried in the crawlspace under his Norwood Park home.
When Gacy was executed in 1994, vendors outside the death house at the Stateville Correctional Center drove anti-death penalty protesters crazy by selling t-shirts reading, “No Tears for the Clown.”
Pennywise the Dancing Clown, of Stephen King’s novel “IT,” is one stranger children should strive to avoid. The problem, or, more appropriately, the horror of the new film based on the King story is this painted stranger’s unyielding and relentless need to introduce himself into the lives of six young misfits known as the “Losers’ Club”; with one among the group having lost a younger brother to the murderous clown.
You see, six-year-old Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) bled to death after the beast ripped the young boy’s arm clean off at the shoulder and dragged him into a feted sewer. It’s just as well he died, since, according to the novel, what Georgie saw in the storm drain “was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the thing in the cellar look like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke.”
Older brother Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is desperate to find Georgie. Much to the chagrin of his father, Bill has built a scale model of Derry, Maine’s sewer system in an effort to find where storm waters may have carried Georgie’s body to its final rest.
“He’s gone! He’s dead! There’s nothing we can do. Nothing,” says his grieving father. “Now take this down before your mother sees it.”
Meanwhile, the glue holding the Loser’s Club together comes from the evil of more earthly monsters: school bullies and sexual molesting parents.
But a new terror begins to insinuate itself into the lives of these troubled kids by way of disturbing and frightening visions associated with a malevolent clown.
It’s Bill who is first to mention the apparitions, “I saw Georgie. It seemed so real. I mean, it seemed like him but there was this…”
“The clown,” whispers Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer). “Yeah, I saw him too.”
“My grandfather thinks this town is cursed,” adds Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs). “He says that all the bad things that happen in this town are because of one thing; an evil thing that feeds off the people of Derry.”
Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the newest member of the group and a recent citizen of Derry, has researched the town’s odd history at the local library.
“Derry is not like any town I’ve been in before,” Ben informs his new friends. “They did a study once, and it turns out people disappear at six times the national average. And that’s just grownups. Kids are worse, way, way worse.”
He recounts how Derry’s early, fur-trapping founders disappeared, their bloody clothing found strewn near the settlement’s communal well house.
Oh, and the town is struck by deadly disasters every 27 years.
“Where is the well house?” asks Bill.
It turns out that well just happens to sit under the creaking floorboards of a decaying 19th-century mansion worthy of your typical Gothic horror story.
“That’s where IT lives,” Bill concludes.
And that old well just happens to connect to Derry’s underground labyrinth of sewer tunnels.
“If we stick together,” says Bill, “all of us will win.”
The relatively small collection of misfits that comprise the Losers’ Club will come to discover that the lessons they’ve learned combating the bullies that haunt their school’s hallways will come in handy when confronting a supernatural evil in circus greasepaint, donning a red nose and over-sized shoes.
“IT” is currently playing in theaters nationwide.