IT CHAPTER TWO
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Skarsgård
Written by: Gary Dauberman (screenplay by), Stephen King (based on the novel by)
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Time to Sink!
Twenty-seven years after their first brush with the monstrous entity known as It, the Losers are back in Derry, Maine, to confront the horror that haunted their childhoods. In the years since their first showdown with Pennywise the Clown, they’ve all moved on to seemingly successful adult lives with one caveat: none of them remember their shared past. After a truly unsettling opening scene marking the creature’s return, it is Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), now the town librarian, who calls them back together. While their memories of Derry – and the horrors of the town – have faded, their unfinished business remains. And as It Chapter Two (2019) proves, there’s more to our childhood fears than killer clowns.
Following up 2017’s blockbuster horror It was a momentous task. Andy Muschietti returns as director to tackle the final showdown between this cosmic horror and humanity. This isn’t a sequel so much as a direct continuation from the first film. Because of that, it’s difficult for the franchise to fully escape the television mini-series feeling, even on the big screen. While the run-time (2hrs and 50m) is excessive, adapting King’s work (all 11,000 pages of it) proves difficult under the best of circumstances even with such a stellar cast.
Bringing the Losers back together should give the audience plenty of opportunities to care about their adult counterparts as much as their younger versions. Yet, just as soon as they are brought back to Derry, they have separated again for plot purposes, making it difficult to feel the same camaraderie among them. It’s the same as was one of the driving forces of the first film. The flashbacks highlight exactly how talented and charismatic the younger cast is and how well they connected to one another. It’s something the older Losers just don’t have this time around.
This isn’t the say that the film isn’t good. It is. It’s simply good in unexpected ways.
The cinematography is stellar, and the special effects are all incredibly well done. There are some truly terrifying moments, including the chilling encounter Beverly (Jessica Chastain) has with the inhabitant of her childhood home and another suspenseful moment where Bill (James McAvoy) confronts Pennywise in a carnival funhouse. The Loser’s initial reunion at a Chinese restaurant, an important moment in both book and film, is both horrifying and oddly mesmerizing as Pennywise exerts his influence over the amnesiac adults. It’s rife with homages that range from other of King’s works and plenty of callbacks to the first film. At one point, the film lifts a moment that is straight from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), complete with a perfect bit of accompanying dialogue. It’s so well done that it’s sure to please any classic horror fan.
Bill Skarsgård’s (Castle Rock, Hemlock Grove) Pennywise remains a chilling presence throughout. His performance is no less spectacular than the first as the story delves into his cosmic mythos.
There are fewer outright scares with more humor and character-driven action than It offered. The humor can be jarring at times, losing the building tension in favor of quips from the main cast. It’s an intentional choice; the Losers confront new aspects of their fears this time around. Common fears of childhood are no longer scary and they react to the absurdity in a way that feels like a wink and a nod. It Chapter Two moves past vampires, wolfmen, and creepy lepers to expose childhood fears that linger into adulthood. It is about the fear for the secrets we keep, the brutal legacies of abuse, and escaping our painful pasts. Near the film’s climax, Bill (James McAvoy) confronts a vision of his younger self (Jaeden Martell) in a memorable showdown that highlights how much childhood trauma affects our adult selves.
Overall, Bill Hader (Barry, Inside Out) steals the show as Richie Tozier, former “Trash Mouth” and now a well-known comedian. His performance provides some of the best – and most fun – scenes in the movie. The film doesn’t shy away from the subtext of the original book; it leans into some of the character notes just hinted at. The choice works. It’s unequivocally one of the strongest aspects of the story and ties into the greater themes of fearing our own secrets more than monsters.
Die-hard horror fans may find the film lacking the same level of terror and scares of the first part. However, It Chapter Two isn’t only about the gore. It’s about the inevitability of growing up and facing the past that haunts us. Only for the Losers, it involves facing a murderous, giant clown in the process.