Movie Review – It Chapter Two

Only a gifted storyteller like Stephen King could find a way to write a successful novel revolving around a haunted clown who feeds off hidden fears people have within their own vulnerabilities.  It Chapter Two just hit theaters today, and it seamlessly follows the events of its predecessor.  On the surface, if you are not familiar with the story of It, you may feel like the synopsis sounds a little over the top.  In fact, it sounds pretty ridiculous.  However, if you read the book or watch the movies, you find yourself enthralled by the suspense of its forthcoming events and horrified by the depths King goes to depict pure evil within his main antagonist.  It wouldn’t have been abnormal for a moviegoer to leave the theater a little short of breath, as It definitely had that effect on its audience.

Well, It Chapter Two is no different in that regard.  In fact, I would argue that director Andy Muschietti was very effective in bringing a series of truly fearsome nightmares to the big screen.  It seems obvious, but the scary stuff in It Chapter Two is the strength of the film.  There have been several horror movies over the years that try to bring fear out of you, but miss the mark and instead instigate a chuckle, or even a bellow of laughter.  Muschietti’s creepy but incredible creativity is for sure on display in this movie, as the cinematography of the fear-driven scenes within the minds of each main character is truly repulsive and frightening.  Thankfully, there wasn’t a camera filming me while watching the reunion scene in the Chinese restaurant – extremely weird…and gross…and awesome.

The movie takes us back to the town of Derry, and is centered around Mike (played by Isaiah Mustafa) assembling his friends back together again in their hometown, 27 years after their encounter with Pennywise.  As the legend goes, every 27 years, Pennywise resurfaces (quite literally) and wreaks havoc on the small Americana town by preying on the minds of vulnerable youths.  As a series of mysterious murders begin to pile up, Mike puts two-and-two together and realizes it’s time for him and his old gang to cash in on their sworn promises to come back home and kill Pennywise in his next visit once and for all.

Talk about having friends in high places, even though Mike is the only member of The Losers  (The name of he and his friends’ adolescent crew) still living in town, his childhood buddies now consists of a bunch of accomplished adults – among them being Bill (James McAvoy), now a big-time writer, and Richie (Bill Hader), a comedian.  Bev (Jessica Chastain), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone) and Stanley (Andy Bean) all appear to be successful in their own rights now as well.  Things get crazy when at their reunion dinner they realize that one member of the club is mysteriously absent, and they must gather the clues to bring them closer to Pennywise, who is undoubtedly the main cause of the absence.

As I said earlier, the strength of It Chapter Two lies in the execution of its freaky nightmarish sequences that the characters each have throughout the film at the hands of Pennywise.  Another strength was the performance of its all-star cast, specifically Bill Hader.  Hader constantly provided hilarious one-liners, but also showed his dramatic side effectively, especially in the climax of the film.  I really enjoyed James Ransone’s performance as Eddie, as well.  His character was so effective because we all grew up with a kid just like Eddie.  He was funny and very relatable.

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Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) banging his head relentlessly into the glass inside the maze of mirrors room at the carnival was one of the creepiest scenes in It Chapter Two.

With that being said, the movie’s main weakness is its lack of plausibility.  I know what you’re probably thinking – why are you looking for plausibility in a movie based on a supernatural clown penetrating the minds of people and causing their deaths?  Well, here me out.

For instance, the odds of a group of adults reuniting via one single phone call (Not texts, emails, etc.  I guess Mike is stuck in Derry AND the 1980s) from someone they haven’t talked to in 27 years is highly unlikely.  On top of that, the idea of them dropping everything they’re doing to jump in a plane, train or automobile to be back in Derry the next day is ludicrous.

The next gripe I have is the fact that, as adults, these people still are going to fall for the same old tricks?  Throughout the movie, each character as an adult has a mental lapse while back in Derry and allows Pennywise to penetrate into their mind, causing disturbing evil episodes with It.  I find it hard to believe that Bill would go to the same sewer where his brother disappeared into decades prior and be tricked into hearing his brother’s prepubescent voice, albeit 27 years later, and trying to pull him out.  Really?  Also, for Eddie to go into the local pharmacy for the first time in decades(he still gets prescriptions sent there though?) and he is served by the same old pharmacist, who is now even older yet still not retired.  On top of that, the same young girl works there as well, only now as a burned out adult.  That whole thing seems like a farce to say the least.

The biggest plot hole of them all, though, is the fact that if Pennywise preys off fears, and the characters know this, then why don’t they act like hard-asses towards him and just disregard his antics altogether from the beginning?  I guess it’s easy for me to say though, not having a 20-foot clown demon chasing me around.

Although the script was fairly decent, the running time was way too long.  The movie is two and a half hours long (2 hours 49 minutes to be exact), and maybe would’ve been more effective if Muschietti packed all the action and gore into two hours max.  The opening scene featuring a hate crime aimed at homosexuals could’ve been taken out altogether as far as I’m concerned.  It seemed forced and poorly placed in the movie.  Despite the fact that such actions are obviously deplorable, and even though I get that It semi-subliminally has an anti-bullying message, it just seemed like an unnatural way to re-introduce Pennywise into the film.  I was confused by the role of the bully, Henry, in the film, too.  I didn’t see his necessity even a little bit.

Also, I was disappointed that, although it’s mentioned that Bev gained the ability during the first Pennywise encounter to see the deaths of her friends if he isn’t stopped, but they never show the deaths to the audience.  I think that was a missed opportunity there from a filmmaking perspective.

Yes, It Chapter Two will quench your thirst for blood and give you frightening scenes that make you jump out your seat, but in between those moments is a lot of fluff and preposterous circumstances.  Stephen King has already said that this is the final chapter to the story, but acknowledged that prequels or other episodes with the grim clown in the future aren’t out of the question.  It is way better than its successor, mainly because of its organic genuineness.  It took a step forward for the horror genre, and while Chapter Two may have not been bad enough to take it two steps back in terms of credibility, it certainly didn’t continue the progression.