2017-10-12 / Front Page

We all float down here

Scary play is these sisters’ way
By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


In the opening scene of “It,” Pennywise the clown lures a young boy named George into the sewer, insisting everything floats there. Samantha Mulkern made several paper boats to go along with her costume and handed them out at a convention in June. Samantha said much of her creative practice started with participating in chorus and theater at Biddeford High School. (Grant McPherson photo) In the opening scene of “It,” Pennywise the clown lures a young boy named George into the sewer, insisting everything floats there. Samantha Mulkern made several paper boats to go along with her costume and handed them out at a convention in June. Samantha said much of her creative practice started with participating in chorus and theater at Biddeford High School. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – Two local sisters don’t clown around when they design costumes modeled after their favorite movie characters. City residents April and Samantha Mulkern have participated in cosplay for several years and won cash prizes for their outfits at movie and costume conventions.

For their most recent horror convention this past June, the two decided to honor both versions of Pennywise the clown, adapted from Stephen King’s 1986 novel “It.” April modeled herself after the 1990 TV movie version played by Tim Curry and Samantha dressed as the latest cinematic interpretation by Bill Skarsgard, which premiered last month. The sisters both attended Biddeford High School and enjoyed theater as a creative outlet.

“It almost comes naturally for us in a way, cosplaying. Both of us did a lot of chorus and stuff like that. It made us comfortable with people,” said Samantha, 29.

The first character April, 36, ever dressed up as for a convention was Hellboy, which opened her and her sister up to the different conventions in Maine. They’ve attended Bangor Comic and Toy Con and PortConMaine annually. April won crowd favorite for her costume of Immortan Joe from “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Samantha received second in a competition for portraying Greta from “Gremlins 2: The New Batch.” Oftentimes actors from classic horror films will attend the conventions and occasionally participate as judges.


April and Samantha Mulkern generally take between three and four hours to put a costume together. April attended the University of Southern Maine for media studies and theater, and uses many of the skills she learned in college to help her with her outfits. The first “It” film’s budget was $12 million and aired on ABC in November of 1990. Almost 30 million people watched the two-night premiere. The remake, released last month, had a budget of $35 million and grossed over $600 million world wide as of Sunday, Oct. 8. (Grant McPherson photos) April and Samantha Mulkern generally take between three and four hours to put a costume together. April attended the University of Southern Maine for media studies and theater, and uses many of the skills she learned in college to help her with her outfits. The first “It” film’s budget was $12 million and aired on ABC in November of 1990. Almost 30 million people watched the two-night premiere. The remake, released last month, had a budget of $35 million and grossed over $600 million world wide as of Sunday, Oct. 8. (Grant McPherson photos) “A thumbs up from them means you’re doing something right,” April said.

The two have met Robert Englund who played Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” film series, as well as Tony Todd from “Candyman.” Samantha also spoke with Verne Troyer who played Mini- Me in “Austin Powers.” Maine conventions are less likely to attract celebrities due to their smaller venues, they said.


Halloween is not just a holiday for the Mulkern sisters, it’s a way of life. Samantha, left, and her older sister April attend conventions year round and carefully craft detailed costumes of their favorite TV, movie and book characters to wear at them. The next one they planned to attend was the annual Rock and Shock Horror Movie and Music Convention Friday, Oct. 13 in Worcester, Massachusetts. (Grant McPherson photo) Halloween is not just a holiday for the Mulkern sisters, it’s a way of life. Samantha, left, and her older sister April attend conventions year round and carefully craft detailed costumes of their favorite TV, movie and book characters to wear at them. The next one they planned to attend was the annual Rock and Shock Horror Movie and Music Convention Friday, Oct. 13 in Worcester, Massachusetts. (Grant McPherson photo) “You need a big budget in order to attract those people,” Samantha said. “But it’s interesting to talk to them about their work and what they’ve done.”

The sisters take between three and four hours to get ready together. Samantha helps April put fake eyelashes on and April in turn helps Samantha with contacts. They enjoy competing with other people at conventions, but prefer to work together on their own costumes and inspire each other.

“We both empower each other when doing this,” April said.

They have received many stares and jumps from their dual Pennywise outfits. A convention in Connecticut they attended earlier in the summer was held at the same hotel as a toddler pageant, which made for some frightened children and excited parents.

“It took us two hours to get to the room to be judged,” Samantha said. “Everybody wanted to take photos with us. We didn’t realize this many people would freak out. “It” has a really big following, especially with the hype of the new movie.”

The 2017 “It” film had grossed $600 million worldwide as of Sunday, Oct. 8 and became the highest grossing horror movie to date. While they both enjoyed the new version, April said the new Pennywise isn’t quite as funny as the 1990 rendition.

“I just enjoy watching (Tim Curry) on screen,” she said. “He’s having so much fun. I really relate to that version of it. He laughs at his own jokes; I do that. I think one part that makes him funny is no one else is laughing. It’s so frightening.”

April and her sister enjoy the adrenaline rush that accompanies being scared of something you know can’t actually hurt you. They understand people have legitimate fears of clowns and don’t intend to truly terrify someone, so it’s all in good fun for the Mulkern sisters.

“There’s some kind of enjoyment from having someone react to you by being scared,” April said. “Afterwards, they’ll smile almost. It’s cool to see that process with people.”

The two never repeat a costume for a convention. After all of the preparation put into one costume, they usually only end up wearing it twice, once the day of the convention and once before for practice. For their next costumes, April plans to dress up as the Babadook, a monster from the eponymous 2014 film and Samantha will be the Necronomicon, a fictional book that appears in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, a prominent horror fiction writer. Having fun with the costumes is the sisters’ top priority.

“This is our interpretation of the characters,” Samantha said. “It could be different from other people, but we want it to be noticed and noticeable from the movie. We don’t want to focus on it too much though and lose the fun.”

The sisters come from a family of horror lovers. Their mom dressed as Maleficent at a recent convention in Portland.

“Family members and friends know I’m the costume queen,” April said. “I let them borrow things, I’m glad to do it. Not everyone has the supply I do. I want everyone to have fun and have a good time, that’s what I’m all about.”

The challenges in designing an elaborate wardrobe have given the sisters a lot of experience in problem solving.

“I always like to make sure everything is working out correctly,” April said, “especially having materials. Sometimes things just don’t work for me and the most important thing I’ve learned when it’s not working is to change it and try something else. I try to be flexible with myself and not be so specific with how it’s supposed to be, especially with these costumes. Once we really got that into our heads it was more fun and easier.”

April encouraged anyone interested in cosplay to give it a try. She said putting herself out there was initially nerve-wracking, but it became easier once she was in her costume. She and Samantha have felt welcomed by the community of people who dress up and attend conventions.

“It’s really nice to talk to people who have a similar interest and appreciate it,” Samantha said. “It allows them to express themselves.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com.

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