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Pennywise: 1990 Vs 2017


Written by Q.V. Hough Stephen King's latest hit adaptation is the scariest thing we've seen in a long time, mostly thanks to Bill Skarsgård's portrayal of Pennywise the clown, but how does he stack up against the original IT's Pennywise, played by Tim Curry? WatchMojo puts them head to head to find out which version of the dancing evil clown is better! 1990 or 2017? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: WatchMojo.com Big thanks to mac121mr0 for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Pennywise+The+Clown+%281990%29+Vs.+Pennywise+the+Clown+%282017%29
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Pennywise 1990 vs. Pennywise 2017

Whose side are you on? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be going down into the storm drain to take a closer look at Pennywise, past and present. We’re evaluating a wide-range of categories to compare Tim Curry’s original portrayal of the character with Bill Skarsgård’s updated version

Round 1: Looks/Design


In the 1990 mini-series, Pennywise appears as a traditional clown. For many, that alone is scary. As Pennywise, actor Tim Curry wears heavy make-up, but he’s mostly non-threatening from The Losers Club’s point of view. When this Pennywise gets angry, his sharp, rotting teeth enhance the look. For the most part, though, the 1990 version is a clown that you’d expect to see at any birthday party. Furthermore, the mini-series is partially set in 1960 – a more innocent time. Looking back, some viewers may squirm at the creepy character, while others may crack up at the bright red hair and buffoonish behavior.

In contrast, Bill Skarsgård’s version is purely menacing. This Pennywise design is more Victorian Gothic than Classic Americana, making the character seem like a strange outcast from the past, rather than just your average clown. The makeup also has more detail than 1990 Pennywise, with two streaks connecting the mouth to the eyes. 2017 Pennywise is also leaner, giving him a much more deathly look. Plus, the haircut is more realistic, questionable as the style may be.

While 1990 Pennywise can be frightening underneath his goofy exterior, all it takes is one look at Skarsgård’s character to send chills up your spine. He’s a clownish figure, but one you wouldn’t want to meet in person.

WINNER: Curry 0 / Skarsgård 1



Round 2: Personalities


For 1990 Pennywise, it’s his inviting personality that makes him so dangerous. In public, he looks and acts just like any other clown. He’s so engaging that he actually manages to lure poor Georgie to the storm drain…. and you know what happens next. Curry’s Pennywise often looks out of place, too. He’s the prototypical “sad clown.” There’s evil lurking underneath, of course, but it’s the character’s charm and personality that mask his evil intentions. For 1990 viewers, Pennywise represented the dangerous stranger that manages to go unnoticed in the neighborhood.

For modern viewers, however, Pennywise needed some tweaks. The threat needed to be more overt. 2017 Pennywise looks seriously out of place; he’s the obvious baddie. Whereas Curry’s version is more of a social outcast, Skarsgård’s Pennywise is a walking nightmare. Personality-wise, this Pennywise is the friend your parents warn you about. His smile is devious, and his dialogue is steeped in danger. Skarsgård’s Pennywise undoubtedly wants to harm the children, and his non-verbal behavior speaks louder than his words.

Curry’s Pennywise uses his personality to his advantage, but Skarsgård’s character is less self-aware. Or, perhaps he’s fully aware but just doesn’t care. For a killer clown, personality means something, and Curry’s version can definitely hold a conversation, at least for a little bit.

WINNER: Curry 1 / Skarsgård 1



Round 3: Being a Clown


What is a clown? By definition, a clown is a “comic entertainer,” and Curry’s version fits the bill.1990 Pennywise gives the impression that he’s a true professional, a clown that understands how to provoke people and make them laugh. He walks and talks like a clown, so he must be a clown, right? There’s nothing incredibly offensive about him at first glance, at least if you’re someone who isn’t naturally terrified by “comic entertainers”. This Pennywise is playful and knows his role; he understands how to wear his emotions on his sleeve.

Unlike his 20th century counterpart, 2017 Pennywise doesn’t fully sell himself as a clown. He’s familiar with the concept, but he looks more like someone that’s trying to scare rather than entertain. Skarsgård’’s version isn’t necessarily that funny, aside from his devilish grin and old-timey dance. He’s a villainous character - not a comedic one. In a police line-up, he’d be the obvious clown of interest. He’s not an authentic clown, and he knows it. We all know it. 2017 Pennywise is a poser clown, and a rather effective one.

Skarsgård’’s Pennywise just wants to creep you out with his pseudo-clown behavior, while Curry delivers his scares with a smile, making 1990s Pennywise the better entertainer.

WINNER: Curry 2 / Skarsgård 1



Round 4: Performance


With his 1990 Pennywise role, Tim Curry delivers a polished performance; a theatrical performance. By constantly keeping viewers on edge, he created of the most memorable horror baddies. On the surface, he’s a sympathetic figure just for BEING a clown. There appears to be some humanity beneath all the make-up and comic bravado, even if the character is a legit psychopath. Unlike iconic villains such as Jason Voorhees, Mike Myers and Freddy Krueger, 1990 Pennywise isn’t immediately threatening, all thanks to Curry’s humanistic interpretation.

In contrast, Skarsgård’s Pennywise is a cinematic relative of Heath Ledger’s Joker from “The Dark Night.” Although he pays homage to Curry’s original character, Skarsgård also adds little quirks and eccentricities to freak out modern audiences. It’s the little things: the smile, the way Pennywise tilts his head, the childish demeanor. Skarsgård’s Pennywise fits the mold for modern horror; a character that looks surreal but still feels like a tangible threat. In other words, Skarsgård builds on Curry’s version by stripping down the buffoonish qualities and making Pennyswise more like a demonic reflection of the children he’s hunting.

Impressive and innovative as Curry’s performance may be, Skarsgård is more effective as a genuinely terrifying Pennywise. He’ll creep into your subconscious and maybe never leave.

WINNER: Curry 2 / Skarsgård 2



Round 5: Scares/Fear Factor


As a two-part, 192-minute series that originally aired on ABC, 1990’s “It” wasn’t designed for constant jump scares. With that said, there are genuinely frightening moments throughout. It’s mostly focused on a larger narrative about society and character building. So, Curry’s Pennywise has quieter moments, scenes in which he’s just acting like a clown. As a result, viewers get used to that type of behavior, which, along with the outdated visual effects, just isn’t that scary.

For Andy Muschetti’s 2017 adaptation, Skarsgård‘s Pennywise receives less screen time than the original, but he effectively uses the time he does have to scare the hell out of the audience. His fear factor is situational, whether it’s his first appearance in the drain scene or his sudden appearance behind one of the kids. With 2017 Pennywise, the scares come from the pacing and insinuation. This type of horror is more psychological than blatant. Viewers learn about the kids’ back stories, yet Pennywise remains an enigma. So, when Skarsgård’s character shows up, it’s not to crack jokes – it’s to raise some hell. It’s his very presence makes viewers squirm, along with the unknown.

To be fair, Curry’s Pennywise was frightening for the time. But as the horror genre has transformed, villain performances like Skarsgård’s have become more cerebral than exaggerated and hyperbolic. This one goes to 2017 Pennywise.

WINNER: Curry 2 / Skarsgård 3



So, it would seem that Bill Skarsgard’s 2017 Pennywise is more creepy and effective than Tim Curry’s 1990 character.
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