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“IT: Chapter 2:” King of horror

“IT: Chapter 2” ramps up the thrills and scares in haunting sequel. (Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Kat Virula
News Editor

“IT: Chapter Two” released on September 6, 2019. While watching Chapter Two, I was amazed by the cinematography of the film and the ensemble cast, but I also witness numerous adjustments from the first film, Chapter one.

To catch up on what happen in “IT,” Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård, makes a visit to Derry, Maine in 1989. Pennywise or “It,” is an evil and terrifying child-eater who resurfaces every 27 years to prey on kids. During his visit, he ran into the Losers Club, who are a misfit ensemble of seven teens (Mike, Billy, Eddie, Richie, Stanely, Beverly, and Ben) who seemed to be the only people in town that realize something evil was afoot

Because Pennywise preys on not just on humans, but on fear itself, the Losers were able to combine their imaginations to defeat him. At the end of that film, they made a vow to return to Derry if Pennywise should ever come back.

When Chapter Two begins, 27 years have passed. It’s 2016, and all the Losers have moved out of town and on with their lives — except for Mike, played by Isaiah Mustafa. As the only member of the group who stuck around, he’s developed an obsession with finding ways to defeat Pennywise in the event that the clown reappears. So he’s the first to realize that Pennywise has returned, after the clown brutally murders someone who’s already been the victim of a hate crime.

The movie doesn’t waste much time reintroducing us to the kids from Chapter One; now, they’re in their early 40s and played by an impressive ensemble cast. They’re spread all across the US and most of them are implausibly successful; Richie, played by Bill Hader, is a popular standup comic; Billy, played by James McAvoy,  is a bestselling novelist; Eddie, played by James Ransone is a New York financier; Ben, played by Jay Ryan, is a ludicrously upscale architect; Beverly, played by Jessica Chastain is a wealthy fashion designer. The only one missing in this “Loser Club” reunion is Stanley, played by Andy Bean, who confronts his fear of “IT” by making a tragic end to his life. 

Once the group has reconvened in Derry, they realize they’re all a bit confused about why they’re there; Pennywise seems to cast a spell of forgetfulness on anyone who leaves the town, so most of them barely remember their previous selves or their relationships with each other, even though they all felt psychically compelled to return. A good chunk of Chapter Two’s runtime is concerned with the Losers re-establishing themselves as the Losers once more.

In King’s novel, the adult storyline moves at a much quicker pace than the teen storyline and benefits from recovered memories speeding along the process. But Muschietti mines their memory loss for horror, to a degree that Chapter Two starts to lag; some scenes, like Beverly’s terrifying tea with Pennywise during a visit to her childhood home and Richie’s subtext-laden encounter with a giant killer Paul Bunyan, last too long and carry no dramatic weight. There’s also a subplot that goes nowhere involving an old bully who breaks out of a mental asylum just to threaten the Losers a little more, at Pennywise’s behest.

Even though all of this comes directly from the book, Chapter Two fails to tie it all together thematically and consequently winds up feeling bloated and undeserving of its aforementioned three-hour runtime.

A big part of Chapter Two’s weakness comes from the adult cast’s lack of chemistry compared to their absolutely outstanding teen counterparts. There’s supposed to be an awkward friendship reborn among all these people, and while it’s easy to believe that friendship during all the teen flashbacks we see throughout the film, it never fully comes to life on screen when they’re adults. Hader and Mustafa seem to be the only actors truly committed to their place within the ensemble.

Another theme that “IT : Chapter 2” fails to show is that love can conquer all kinds of evil — not just supernatural, but societal too. As teens, all of the Losers shoulder trauma and abuse. Stanley’s dealing with depression. Beverly and Eddie are victims of domestic abuse. Bill’s grappling with death and grief, Ben with bullying, and Richie and Mike with small-town oppression. This theme is what made “IT” so successful because you can relate to the “Loser Club” as teens, in a spiritual level. The Losers’ deep love for each other helped them overcome all these obstacles, to defeat Pennywise.

To conclude this review, hollywood, in general, will insist changing important details when making a movie adaption of the novel. Of course, that’s exactly what has been done to the 1,400-page 1986 horror classic. They changed King’s overwhelmingly internal, psychological, fantasy world of horror into externalized, supernatural horror with a clear and straightforward plot lines. What’s more, Director Andy Muschietti lean toward this urge more than away from it. however, this outcome works, because “IT” is still a powerful story. The film itself is nearly three hours, but the comparison to the novel to the big screen is incredibly obvious.   

On the one hand, by separating It into two films, is genius. Muschietti has done an admirable and satisfyingly creepy job of creating King’s novel into a blockbuster hit. King structured his story about a killer, shapeshifting, clown and the kids of Derry, who unite to defeat it into two overlapping timelines; the novel switches back and forth between past and present, as the “Losers Club” battles the titular evil known as “It” as both teens and adults. Muschietti’s choice to break the timelines apart was a smart one. At least in, “IT,” it used a nostalgic coming-of-age lens that made the 2017 film a record-breaking smash hit.

And for that, that is why I am giving “IT: Chapter 2” a 4 out of 5 stars. It is still is an exceptional story and Muschietti did an amazing job bringing King’s novel to life. It lacks connections to what makes the “Loser Club” what is, but still expressed the horror from past trauma to what horror brings in adulthood.