Review: IT Chapter Two

If you’re reading this and you’ve also read IT (the novel) in it’s entirety, well good for you. I haven’t. But I feel like I did after going to IT Chapter Two BECAUSE IT’S ALMOST THREE HOURS LONG! Okay, now that that’s out of my system let me say that my overall impression of the movie was that there was actually just enough for me to enjoy going to see the sequel but at the same time there wasn’t enough for me to ever consider re-watching it. Which wasn’t the case for IT, as I went back to the well after seeing it in the theatre and really enjoyed a re-watch. IT Chapter Two evoked much less feeling of terror than its predecessor and even the scares are scarce. So I’m putting this film into the category of “go see it if you saw the first one in order to finish the story, but otherwise don’t bother.”
The Losers Club are back, 27 years later, to their hometown of Derry, Wisc…I mean Maine. Most of the losers have grown up and moved away, all but forgetting their traumatic encounter with the nightmare-ish clown Pennywise. But the nightmare is back. After the obsessive library-dwelling Mike calls his friends to re-assemble, they must re-live their lost childhood memories in order to remember their cause and stand a chance at defeating IT once and for all with a mystical ceremony known as “the ritual of Chud”. They are only strong enough together, but will they be able to conquer their fear in time to take on Pennywise before he slips away for another 27 years?
If you follow my blog, you may feel like I review a lot of horror movies (this was #6 out of 18 films this summer, because technically I saw the movie last Saturday and have only been much too busy to write). I guess that’s true. But two reasons to consider: I enjoy certain horror movies a lot for the various elements they can bring, and also we’re in a bit of a resurgence of the genre. In the past 2 years alone, 4 of the top 5 biggest opening weekend horror movies have been released, with 2 of them being released this summer. The previous film being Ma, and now IT Chapter Two, which although falling short of it’s title-holding predecessor still managed a $91 million opening weekend on a $70 million budget. Not bad for a spooky space clown. So yes, I enjoy other genres too but also yes, there will be more horror movie reviews coming before the year is through. And speaking of the horror genre, there were a few horror details in IT Chapter Two worth discussing.
A problematic quality of bad horror movies is that they continue much farther than they should, and this movie unfortunately fit right in. I don’t mean because of it’s run-time because I wasn’t every truly bored, but the pendulum kept swinging toward the third act repeatedly. Lots of going deeper in the sewers and encountering Pennywise in various forms and a few too many close calls for the Losers. As I previously noted, this wasn’t altogether a “scary movie” like IT was for me. But there also did seem to be much more gore and violence this time, with more kids getting chomped and more people getting knifed. A good horror quality is a crippling fear that the antagonist faces because it calls for them to do something big in order to overcome and fight back, and director Andy Muschietti (IT, Mama) does do a nice job showcasing this for much of the first two acts. Almost immediately after reuniting and beginning to remember, the Losers want nothing but to leave Derry for fear of re-living their traumas. Their lives were so infected to the core because of Pennywise and his grip on the town that it not only stuck with them but infected their life choices even after they grew up and moved away.
The cast was the best part of this film, and I’m including Bill Skarsgård (Castle Rock) underneath all that Pennywise makeup and CGI. The way he moves and speaks and the crazy look he gets in his eyes just cuts you deep with fear of his portrayal of evil. He was just as fantastic as in the first film. But what really stuck with me was the way that the Losers cast portrayed their grown-up versions. They each had to base their character’s appearance and mannerisms and everything on the younger cast from IT, and they hit a home run. Every one of them was amazing in their portrayal and stayed true to their younger selves. Six of the seven Losers play a larger role in the film (I won’t spoil why or who’s missing if you’re one of the 8 billion people who haven’t read the book) and the writers do a nice job of returning to and unraveling past relationships as the movie progresses. Each of the adult actors did a great job of bringing their character’s terror to the surface in big and meaningful ways and then facing that terror in order to survive. I don’t know if there was a standout for me among the six actors, but Bill Hader showed probably the greatest range of emotions. I enjoy when horror movies can break the tension with humor and he definitely brought it. Finally, the use of flashbacks to show their memory returning was a nice directorial touch, because it gave each of the younger actors small roles in the film while also bringing back some nostalgia of the “kids adventure” feeling we got in IT (Chapter One) that was definitely missing here.
My last thought on the film revolves around the decisions of Pennywise. 1) He’s an alien. 2) He’s been around for centuries. 3) He likes eating people. So the question that kept floating around my mind was why doesn’t he try harder to kill the Losers??? Does IT want them to be dead or just scared? Having also not read the book, my conclusion is that Pennywise starts by trying to scare the Losers because they already “defeated” him once. Maybe for fear of being offed for good, he resigns to making them re-visit their fears in order to cause them to leave Derry (and it almost works). That way IT would survive. But by the time they come after Pennywise to take him down for good it’s too late and the attempt to kill must commence. To me it’s the only logic that fits together with the narrative, but tell me I’m wrong in the comments if you have read the book or figured it out differently. (I’m probably wrong)
I’m glad they didn’t go the whole “galactic turtle” route that I heard about, but if you see the movie watch closely for the turtle cameo. In other news, this weekend releases both J. Lo’s drama/thriller Hustlers and the highly anticipated/poorly reviewed The Goldfinch. Not sure if I will go see either, but next weekend I will be looking forward to Brad Pitt’s space movie, Ad Astra. My wife and I are still working our way through a couple different streaming series right now so I’ll try to get another one of those reviews up soon. Anything you’ve seen recently that you enjoyed? Let me know, and thanks for reading a rather lengthy review on a rather lengthy film. You’ll float too…Cheers!

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