It: Chapter Two (2019)

Since the release of the first segment of Stephen King’s IT in 2017, horror fans have been pretty much spoiled with back to back better than average genre fare. The crop has been so high caliber it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when weeks and weeks would go by without any worthwhile releases. We’ve had it so good lately that a movie that emotionally resonates and is chuck full of visionary images of horror can somehow be shrugged off and deemed simply passable or even disappointing. I don’t get it. I loved the ever so epic IT: Chapter 2 and can’t imagine the source material being handled much better. Yeah, I guess it is a little long with its somewhat flabby and redundant midway section but you know the tome it’s based on weighs twenty pounds and features a giant space turtle right? I think director Andy Muschietti has accomplished the nearly impossible and then some. Really, the fact that another interpretation of Pennywise the clown can exist in the same universe as Tim Curry’s beyond iconic take is a feat in itself. Sorry, I’m just feeling kind of grateful that this two-part horror bonanza occurred in my lifetime and that it blessedly takes place in a time frame perfect for me to relate to. I do wish Chapter 2 was wise enough to take advantage of another song by The Cure but whatayagonnado? I can’t pretend I don’t love Cameo’s “Word Up” too.

And hip-hip halleluiah, Chapter 2 has the admirable audacity to jump right into the deep end opening its curtains to the deadly homophobic hate crime that haunted the hell out of me when I first read the book. I don’t care what anyone says, this scene (which is based on a real incident that took place in Bangor, Maine in 1984, two years before IT was published) is crucial to me; it sets the tone of the entire tale and pretty succinctly tells you everything thing you need to know about the not as friendly as it looks town of Derry (I’m sure they thought of including the incident in the 1990 miniseries for exactly zero point zero seconds). There’s admittedly a bit of a risk that such a realistic act of violence would feel abruptly out of place opening what is essentially a horror fantasy but the way it bookends with a revelation concerning Richie Tozier (Bill Hader) balances things out quite well. I’m sure Richie’s newfound direction is not going to go over well with everyone but I think it fits in as snuggly as a missing puzzle piece and besides, King himself has granted his seal of approval. (That reminds me- King has a cameo in this movie as a shopkeeper and it’s by far my favorite he’s ever done as he blasts authors who aren’t particularly good at providing satisfying conclusions to their books, it’s mucho hilarious).

Some folks will tell you IT Chapter 2 goes a little overboard with the CGI and borderline cartoonish special effects and I guess that’s just a matter of personal taste. I personally appreciate that you never know when a rubbery looking, eight-foot-tall funhouse denizen is going to jump out of nowhere and chase someone with arms flailing about and slimy drool pouring from its lips. If there is a reason such an abomination might vomit all over a character to the tune of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning,” I have no idea what it is, but it certainly adds unpredictability to the bonkers phantasmagorical swirling smorgasbord, which is right in line with King’s hallucinatory original intentions. Yep, there’s an absolutely shameless tribute to JOHN CARPENTER’s THE THING plopped down in the middle of this flick and it’s almost way too on the nose and yet, King himself referenced Universal horror icons (Wolf Man, Mummy, Gill-Man) of the original time period in the book so I guess it’s fair game. It’s a little gimmicky, a little cheap but what the hell kind of horror fan is going to complain about such a thing? Pennywise’s ultimate boss battle form saves his big expressive head and tacks it onto some kind of part scorpion/part spider/part Beetlejuice creature that’s a little trying on my too-slow peepers but hey, I’m old enough to remember when rendering such a monstrosity would be impossible so I’m here to happily digest it. It probably all looks a little too visually similar to the climax of the first film (maybe a contrasting color scheme may have helped?) but I still think it looks better than any attempt to faithfully create how things go down in the book ever would. Thankfully Muschietti seems to understand what’s translatable and what’s not and his shorthand saves the day. There are a couple cringe moments I guess, I found lil’ Georgie’s “You lied and I died” mantra tired at best but since it leads to Bill (JAMES McAVOY)’s realization that self-forgiveness is the key to moving forward, I’m more than happy to let it slide.

It’s not often we get a horror movie with such a vibrant romantic element either. I know I’m a sucker but I’m still shocked this movie was able to get me to ship a Beverly (JESSICA CHASTAIN) and Ben (JAY RYAN) union so hard. Which brings me to another strong element- if ever there was ever an Oscar award given out for casting this baby would be a shoe-in. Many times the blending of the character traits and features is damn eerie. Muschietti even goes so far at one point as to superimpose young and older Eddie’s (JACK DYLAN GRAZER, JAMES RANSOME respectively) faces on top of each other and uncanny doesn’t even begin to cover it. I guess at the end of the day, much like KING’s book, what really matters is how much you connect with the characters. I love all of these guys and somehow that even includes the returning bullies (though one of them is now just a rotting corpse). Mileage may vary but I think it’s likely to vary based on how much empathy you have toward those on screen. IT’s red balloon is always going to float higher for those of us who have experienced bullying, smothering parents, domestic abuse, gay-bashing, psychosomatic asthma, speech impediments, alienating birthmarks, familial deaths, advanced leprosy, horrible customer service at the pharmacy, etc., etc., etc.. Truly, if you’ve ever been chased down the street by a murderous, twenty-foot tall lumberjack this is basically the ONLY movie that understands your pain. I may be biased though, if there’s a story that better illustrated the importance of calling out and facing childhood traumas rather than running from and repressing them, I just don’t know what IT is.

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2 years ago

I went to the theater intending to see it and decided to see Ready or Not on your recommendation. I was planning on going back the next day to see IT but I realized three hours is a long time when I didn’t remember or like the first one. I’m looking forward to seeing the Pennywise parts at home. Good advice from you all around 🙂

2 years ago

Okay, let me just say, I do not get the negativity this movie is getting.

It’s not scary? First of all, “scary” is extremely subjective. I have not been scared by any piece of media in 20 years, does that mean every horror movie /book I saw/read was a failure? Hardly.

Second of all, what exactly is wrong with a horror movie that just wants to have a bit of fun, instead of having characters endlessly wander dark hallways in search of a next jump scare? Did people forgot all those wonderful FUN horror movies from the 80s?

Seriously, after a decade of grimdark tryhard horror and another one of endless rehashed ghost stories, we had a pretty much entire year filled with FUN, QUIRKY horror movies that are not afraid to be WEIRD and FUNNY and EMOTIONAL.

We had Happy Death Day 2U, Child’s Play remake, Midsommar, Ready or Not and now IT2. All these movies are not perfect, some of their elements did not exactly work, some of their comedy was too broad, some were edited down to bone by stupid studio executives, but whatever, they were fun and refreshing. There are literally hundreds of new horror movies out there every year, so what if some of them try to be different?

That is literally what I love about horror. You can have silly, over the top supernatural extragavanza on one end and dark, gritty realistic mindfuck on the other, and both belong to the same, awesome genre.

Again, I do not get the negativity surrounding this movie.

I love the book, it holds a special place in my heart, but I know it is impossible to properly translate all it’s content into a movie.

And I am perfectly fine with this big, blockbuster Hollywood version of IT, especially one that is filled to the brim with amazing actors, great music, cool visuals and lots and lots of heart.

Yes the CGI was distracting, especially the de-aging of the kids. Yes some of the humor was too broad and random. But what. When was the last time you saw a horror movie this big, this crazy, this fun in theatres?

2 years ago

unkle lancifer
I left you a reply, but it seems to have gotten lost somewhere after I submitted it.

Anyway, I completely agree with everything you said. I love The Conjuring\Insidious movies, but if you are a horror fan and watch dozens movies a year, watching characters slowly babywalk their way down a dark corridor gets very tiring, no matter how well it is shot.

Which brings me back to both IT movies. They have so much energy, they feel like Sam Raimi movies. Every scare\suspense\joke scene is different and offers something at least a little bit fresh or weird. Say what you want about whether they are effective or not, but both movies never repeat the same scare or scene twice. Also both movies contain exactly only one babywalking down a dark corridor scene each!

And yes, you could see Muschietti was being held back in the first movie, the off kilter weirdness was present in only a small handful of scenes (Pennywise dancing, eating a severed hand and waving with it, TV show bits). Apparently after the success of the first movie he was given twice the budget and absolute freedom.

Thinking about it, the offbeat humor and weirdness of IT chapter 2 is probably the main reason so many people dislike it. The first movie was restrained so outside of character based humor it played pretty much straight. People who wanted more of the same were probably dissapointed and people who expected something darker and grittier were put off by the jokes and weirdness.

Chapter 2 is both grittier\darker AND funnier. What a strange movie. I love it.

2 years ago

I totally get what you are saying. A lot of the scenes blended the funny/scary or funny/disturbing tone. Mainstream audience or very young horror fans usually get confused/put off by it .

I think the filmmakers also realized that, which is why they ended a lot of those scenes with a “yes, this is supposed to also be funny!” moments… Losers trashing the restaurant, that needle drop in the pharmacy basement, Eddie telling Bowers to get a hair cut etc.

Oh man that Bowers stabbing Eddie into face scene! The visual is nightmarish, the shock of the attack is there and then Eddie’s reaction is pure tragic comedy gold.

Jon Lavia
Jon Lavia
2 years ago

I couldn’t agree more Lance. I really, really enjoyed this movie. Yes, the second act dragged a bit, but we have more main characters to serve than in a normal movie, and that service is needed for development.

The casting and the resulting performances were incredible. There were times when I was looking at Jay Ryan thinking “he could be Jeremy Ray Taylor’s blood relative, no problem” and the same was true for every single one of them. All of the adult leads were easy to empathize with.

The opening scene was awful to watch, but that was the point; I like how Muschietti focused on the brutality of the act, as you are NOT supposed to like what is happening.

I have seen many people say it wasn’t as scary as the first and I can agree with that in a sense. Each chapter presented a different type of fear, which is something that is made clear in the novel: kids and adults are scared of different things. I felt the adult fear in this movie resonating with me, especially as a parent. The parental neglect comes into focus in a different fashion in Chapter Two, because we are finally seeing adults being aware of, and trying to stop, IT. And we actually saw IT targeting a child in the presence of of an adult who was actively trying to stop IT! That sense of hopelessness and guilt is just as scary as a contorted clown twisting out of a fridge, just not in the same way.

That underlying sense of guilt and convalescence also explains why Pennywise simply doesn’t just kill the Losers where and when he wants, after all: he loves “salting the meat”.

Thank you for writing this review and for running this amazing site! With young kids, I don’t get to watch as many horror films as I used to, but I certainly enjoy and heed your recommendations and those of fellow readers. You’ve built a great community here.

Dr Nick Riviera
Dr Nick Riviera
2 years ago

(Wow, I wrote up my thoughts before I ready any of the comments here and I’m thrilled, as usual, to see my thoughts put into words by folks that are 1000% better writers. So here are my short-form thoughts echoing much of what has already been said – just to add to the chorus.)

Screw the haters. Having lived through decades that were really rough going for horror fans, anyone complaining about a film like this (so well put together and obviously heartfelt) is either too spoiled or too cool for school. Is it as good as the first chapter? No, but that one’s a real masterclass in funhouse filmmaking. Is it perfect? No, it’s too long and features too much iffy CGI (surprising in such a big movie – the first big kill has some really ropey computer generated gore). But it’s so much FUN! The cast is great. The wonderful kids from the first ones feature more prominently than I expected. The adult actors are PERFECTLY cast (not a Richard Thomas in the bunch!). Sure, it’s not REALLY scary – but it had at least one good jump and some other stuff (Pennywise by the river with his eyes glowing, the scene with Mrs. Kersh, definitely the scene under the bleachers) that created some respectable tension. The Mrs. Kersh scene is a perfect example of what this film is – it plays with you for an extended period (with some wonderful, hilarious weirdness) then it clobbers you with some CGI effect that’s not really convincing but sure does make you smile. These two films put together are everything a Stephen King reader wanted in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Something we RARELY got. I for one will not complain about it. Good for you IT “duology” – you got it right.