27 years after overcoming the malevolent supernatural entity Pennywise, the former members of the Losers’ Club, who have grown up and moved away from Derry, are brought back together by a devastating phone call.
It’s not too often that the horror genre gets a true blockbuster, but that’s exactly what we got in 2017 with Andy Muschietti’s version of IT. At a time when Stranger Things was only just beginning to revive 80’s nostalgia, and creepy clown sightings were happening all over America, a perfect storm was created for IT’s release that enabled it to become a true horror juggernaut at the box office.
Two years later, we get the conclusion to Muschietti’s vision of Derry, as our now middle-aged members of the loser club return to take on Pennywise after he awakes from his 27-year slumber. This time, however, the success of the first has paved the way for not only a much bigger budget, but also awards talent in the form of Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader.
Perhaps most important though, is that since the first movie was such a critical and box office hit, Chapter Two has the confidence to go completely wild and amp up the crazy to straight to eleven.
Yes, IT: Chapter Two is a wild ride, and in a way that completely took me by surprise. I certainly enjoyed Pennywise’s first outing well enough, but with the second chapter, it feels like Muschietti has the full backing of the studio to take the movie wherever he wants to go tonally, faithfully creating scenes from the book that you would assume hard to pull off on film.
Starting with a brutal gay-bashing straight from the pages of Stephen King, the movie initially brings Pennywise in with more traditional scare sequences, looming in the shadows, and luring children into the dark. A little girl being led under the bleachers with a firefly is a highlight early on, as the dialogue works perfectly to show what an evil entity Pennywise truly is. It’s also a nice way to start the trajectory of the movie, as Pennywise only gets more over the top and outlandish as the movie goes on, making every sequence a set-piece. In these instances, it’s nice to have these smaller kills to fall back on to see the juxtaposition of just how far the movie will go.
For me, Muschietti might actually be the real MVP here, showing a real lack of restraint that makes the movie different from the slow-burn trend that horror is currently going through. The first chapter used the fantastical elements of the Pennywise mythology in specific ways, but in comparison to Chapter Two, it was much more muted in its vision, creating only a few alternate Pennywise forms.
Here, you get them in spades, and not only in glimpses, but extended scenes. The naked old lady featured in the trailer is a definite highlight with a final form that despite looking kind of goofy, fits perfectly into the tone that the movies creating. Long-time fans of King’s book will also be happy to hear that the Paul Bunyan scene makes the cut, in a splendidly over the top moment featuring Bill Hader and his younger counterpart Finn Wolfhard.
Speaking of the cast, everyone is on top form here. The real pleasant surprise is that everyone seems to fully comprehend exactly what movie they’re making, hitting just the right tone to make it a movie that can have you jumping and squirming one minute, yet laughing the next. The movie’s emphasis on humor was definitely a pleasant surprise, with Bill Hader toning down Finn Wolfhards original mom jokes just enough to remain endearing, but stealing the show for me was James Ransone as Eddie. Some may find his character on the annoying side, but his neurotic performance and facial expressions always hit at just the right moments for me personally.
The gore factor has also gone up this time around, and when you consider that the first movie opened with the de-arming of a small child, that’s saying something. There’s an actual liberal sprinkling of child-killing in this movie that makes the movie kind of refreshing as far as horror movies are concerned. It’s as if screenwriter Gary Dauberman, of this years Annabelle Comes Home, (and by extension King himself) took the genre trope playbook from Scream and turned it on its head, emphasizing that truly nobody is safe in Derry, in fact, most of the deaths featured here are simply more rattling for happening to the types of people we don’t usually see killed in horror.
While I have rattled on about how entertaining this movie is, the movie does have a small myriad of problems, that while not affecting the enjoyment of the movie too much, are somewhat glaringly obvious.
The movies central plan to defeat Pennywise, for instance, is extremely uncomplicated, and kind of a forced way to ensure that the cast breaks away from each other for individual scares until the finale. I’m not saying what we get from that doesn’t work, but it does feel like there could have been a more organic way of making it happen. There are also one or two instances featuring CGI, especially when it comes the de-aging of the child actors that, while no Henry Cavill mustache situation, could have been cleaned up to a much better scale.
All in all though, IT: Chapter Two is successful for fully embracing the intrinsic madness that is the character of Pennywise, and upping the volume on all counts to make this movie a memorable theatrical experience that stands out from the horror of today. All the while also being a relatively faithful adaptation of King’s novel, and that’s not an easy feat.
Overall, IT: Chapter Two is a wild ride of a movie. Structurally flawed, yet entertaining in almost every other aspect, the movie is a fun time in the vein of Sam Raimi and the horror from previous decades.
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgard, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Andy Bean, Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Lieberher, Xavier Dolan and Jack Dylan Grazer.
Andy Muschietti directs from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman (“IT,” “Annabelle: Creation”) based on the novel IT by Stephen King. Barbara Muschietti, Dan Lin and Roy Lee are producing the film. Marty Ewing, Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg are the executive producers.
Set to open in theaters and IMAX September 6, 2019, “IT CHAPTER TWO” is a New Line Cinema production. It will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.