PopZette

Could the Film ‘It’ Evoke Another Clown Scare?

New flick set for a big opening weekend will ensure that new generations of kids are frightened by makeup-wearing jokers

The “clown scare” from last fall had few people laughing. Seemingly endless reports came from various states about people dressing like clowns and harassing others — or idly standing around in public areas holding weapons.

“All of the professional clowns hope this quickly comes to an end so that our businesses are not significantly impacted by the negativity and nastiness of a few demented individuals,” Debi Saylor Pierce, aka New Mexico’s Twinkles the Clown, told LifeZette at the time.

Chris Fratello, Shorty the Clown, also expressed concern when speaking to LifeZette during the “craze.”

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“Anyone committing a crime — trespassing, robbery, or whatever — is not a clown. If someone commits a crime against another person, mask or not, they alone are responsible for the consequences of their own illegal actions. Unfortunately, professional entertainers are bearing the brunt of this social phenomenon.”

Clowns have long been a staple of nightmares for many children. Stephen King’s 1986 novel “It” helped ensure that by introducing the unforgettable villain Pennywise the Clown, who terrorized a group of children in Derry, Maine. The 1990 miniseries brought the character to an even wider audience — and Tim Curry’s absurd performance as Pennywise has haunted dreams ever since.

Now a new version of the “It” story has hit theaters, and it has many people fearing another clown craze will take to the streets. Working clowns are also upset once more at how their public image is being affected.

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“It all started with the original ‘It.’ That introduced the concept of this character. It’s a science-fiction character. It’s not a clown and has nothing to do with pro clowning … People had school shows and library shows that were canceled. That’s very unfortunate. The very [people] we’re trying to deliver positive and important messages to aren’t getting them,” said Pam Moody, president of the World Clown Association, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

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The producers of “It,” which is expected to have an opening weekend of $60 million or more, find the allegations from the clown community to be ridiculous.

“It’s not as if a group of NHL goalies got up and protested Jason [from the ‘Friday the 13th’ films] or a group of toy manufacturers protested Chucky [from the ‘Child’s Play’ movies],” producer Seth Grahame Smith told USA Today. “There’s a long tradition in horror of these seemingly harmless things being perverted for that very reason, because they are seemingly harmless.”

Whether another wave of clown scares is set to come back or whether movies like “It” hurt the business of professional working clowns, one thing is certain: The idea of the scary clown is not going away anytime soon.

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Not only is a sequel to “It” a very real possibility (according to the filmmakers), but popular culture is riddled with references to frightening or even killer clowns. One was included in the fourth season of “American Horror Story,” and tales still circulate of real-life serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy, who volunteered as a clown from time to time.

“We suggest watching the preview with a friend or co-worker with all the lights on and the sound down low.”

One sign that the clown craze may be back is a report from police in Pennsylvania. The Lititz Borough Police Department said through its Facebook page that it had recently found red balloons tied to sewer grates (a tactic Pennywise uses in “It” to lure children). Five teenage girls have since come forward and taken responsibility for the prank.

The official statement from the police left few to wonder how they felt about the actions, admitting they were “terrified.” “We give points for creativity,” said the police. “However, we want the local prankster to know that we were completely terrified as we removed these balloons from the grates and we respectfully request that they do not do that again.”

They continued, “If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, search ‘It’ and watch the preview, but we suggest watching the preview with a friend or co-worker with all the lights on and the sound down low.”

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PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected].