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Just a few short years ago, a viral video of a clown creeping out from under a young girl's bed went viral. Framed to look like security footage that just happened to be caught by a security camera, it became a viral sensation. And the world was introduced to Wrinkles the Clown.
Now a new documentary, titled simply Wrinkles the Clown, celebrated its world premiere at Fantastic Fest this weekend. Much like the trailer, which implied that the film doesn't exactly unmask the real-life Pennywise, it does end up revealing quite a bit about the realities of viral fame, the role of folklore, and how people react to horrors of their own creation.
Initially, Wrinkles had gained his notoriety thanks to those ominous YouTube videos, but that soon snowballed as stickers were placed around southwest Florida that had his image, his phone number, and a #WrinklesClown hashtag. Soon, the voicemail was receiving hundreds, or even thousands, of voicemails and texts every day. These messages range from fans, parents using Wrinkles as a scare tactic, and an astounding amount of violent death threats.
With access to this treasure trove, director Michael Beach Nichols realized that the documentary wouldn't be so much about the clown, but the overwhelming response he's inspired -- both good and bad. While he admitted to the crowd that listening to an endless amount of rancor took a toll on his outlook toward humanity, it was the plethora of responses (largely from children) that Wrinkles inspired that turned into the doc's focus.
"It became more about people's response to Wrinkles," Nichols explained. "We wanted it to be informed by children ... the myth of Wrinkles."
In doing so, Wrinkles the Clown ended up subverting much of the audience's expectations, leaving some equal parts contemplative and unnerved.
And it wouldn't be a celebration of the internet's favorite scary clown if he didn't make an appearance himself.
In true Fantastic Fest style, the whole experience turned into a celebration of the Wrinkles phenomenon. (See if you can spot yours truly over on the left).
Wrinkles the Clown will creep into theaters and On-Demand on Friday, Oct. 4. Just in time to inspire countless Halloween costumes.