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Pennywise’s Lair

Like in the book and miniseries before it, the climax of It takes place in the sewers beneath Derry, Maine, where Pennywise has set up shop. And since filming in actual crumbling New England sewers would be counterproductive to say the very least, the soggy labyrinth that “It” calls home has been recreated on a Toronto soundstage. And it’s eerily convincing.

After donning boots, we ducked into the muddy, watery tunnels, guided by a crew member who knows where he’s going (and knows that this series of tunnels have been built to look confusing rather than actually be confusing). The walls are constructed from wood, but they’ve treated to look like old stone – they only give themselves up when you touch them. But touching them doesn’t sound like the best of plans. Even knowing that we’re walking through an artificial film set, the whole set is disgusting and grim. Your mind supplies the smell. The various false tunnels and dead ends supply the illusion of being lost

We sloshed through the tunnels, eventually arriving at the grand finale: the cistern. Pennywise’s basecamp. In the middle of this murk, surrounded by deep puddles of water and muck, is an ancient wagon, looking like something you’d see from a traveling theater company use in a movie set a few centuries ago. It’s faded and worn, but the words on the front door, written in bold font, are clearly legible: “Pennywise the Dancing Clown.” We are told that the front door of the wagon is rigged to explode open, allowing Pennywise to make a sudden entrance.

But the wagon isn’t even the highlight of this huge set. That would be the pile on top of the wagon, stretching up high into the air. Right now, the pile is 30 feet tall. When the VFX team is finished with it, it will be 80 feet tall.

The pile consists entirely of children’s clothes and toys.

Upon closer examination, the clothes and toys at the bottom of the pile are rotten and brown with age – relics of a distant era. As the pile grows higher, the clothes grow newer and fresher, still showing off their colors. In one image, you can see Pennywise’s long history, his murder sprees over the centuries, by the souvenirs he has piled here. It’s the creepiest thing we saw on set all day, a genuine triumph of production design. It truly is a lair fit for one of the horror genre’s most iconic monsters.

As we exited the set, a crew member passed by our group, lugging a soggy corpse behind him. “Don’t mind me,” he said with a smile. Could you ask for a more appropriate capper to a tour of an evil clown’s underground lair?

***

It opens in theaters on September 8, 2017.

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