Film Review – It Chapter Two
It Chapter Two
Two years after the smashing success of 2017’s It (now the highest grossing horror movie of all time), Andy Muschietti‘s It Chapter Two has come along to provide some catharsis and tie up loose ends. Unfortunately it becomes hopelessly tangled in its attempt to do so.
Picking up 27 years after the events of the first film, Chapter Two finds Pennywise the Dancing Clown (a returning Bill Skarsgård) back in Derry, Maine to once again go on a child feeding frenzy. Now all pushing 40, the Losers Club members of the original are corralled into a hometown visit by Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), the only Loser to have remained in Derry, and therefore the only Loser that has any memory of the cosmic battle of evil they engaged in as children.
The very prospect of casting adult actors to portray the gang in present day was surely daunting, but this aspect at least delivers in spades. Bill Hader is the standout as Richie Tozier (originally played by Finn Wolfhard), now a prospering stand-up comedian and still the proud loudmouth of the group. Jay Ryan is Ben, an architect who barely resembles the portly, New Kids stan of the first movie. Eddie (James Ransone) is a NY business man, Bill (James McAvoy) is a popular horror novelist and Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is in the act of escaping her abusive husband, a plotline that is queasily tossed away after one disturbing scene.
The group dynamic here is exceptional, which makes it especially unfortunate that, after their hilarious and haunting reunion at a Chinese restaurant, they’re immediately sent off on their own individual adventures. See, Mike has been researching the town’s sordid history and explains, in order to defeat Pennywise once and for all, they must each collect a relic from their past, to be burned in the Ritual of Chüd.
Full disclosure, despite being an unabashed Stephen King fan, I haven’t read It since I was a teenager. I’m overdue for a revisit and hope the details of this ritual, and ending in general, are better fleshed out than what is presented on screen. Despite Mike’s endless exposition on the subject, it still smelled like a whole lot of hullabaloo. King gets a lot of (justified) crap for not knowing how to end a story, and using Bill, the horror writer, as a proxy, provides the movie plenty of opportunities to drop ever-lamer meta jokes about it. But commenting on a bad ending doesn’t fix a bad ending. Or like four bad endings in this case. (This thing is pushing 3 hours.)
Certain pockets of the internet criticized the 2017 entry for not being scary enough. Whether you’re in that camp or not, it’s hard to deny Skarsgård puts his all into his portrayal of Pennywise. The taunting lilt of his voice, the perpetual drool. All spot-on. One scene invented for the new film ratchets up tension masterfully as the clown lures a young girl under the bleachers to meet her grisly demise.
Another stand out scene sees Beverly returning to her childhood home, and falling under the spell of an elderly woman who may or may not be a bloodsucking demon from hell.
Pennywise takes on plenty of new forms this time around, and I found the special effects to be mostly, er, effective. Unfortunately, there are several sequences that attempt to undercut the horror with laughs, often to devastatingly lame results. One needle drop gag was such a misfire I nearly ducked for cover.
I’m pleased as punch interesting filmmakers are in the Stephen King business and hope the trend continues. Andy Muschietti has given this world a distinct look and feel and I look forward to his future projects. Tragically, this one is just too bloated to float.