It Chapter Two (2019)
It Chapter Two (2019)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 2 hrs. 49 min.

Release Date: September 6th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Andy Muschietti Actors: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgard, Teach Grant

 


 

I

n September of 1989, after vanquishing the evil clown monster known as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the seven young friends who comprise the Losers’ Club make a blood pact (cutting themselves with a broken bottle in a needlessly deep, graphic manner) to reunite should “it” ever return. Sure enough, after 27 years, children start disappearing once again and bodies begin accruing, all presenting various forms of mutilation (curiously, one of the first to die is the victim of a hate crime, before becoming a victim of clown dismemberment, proving that Pennywise isn’t sympathetic toward anyone). Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one of the group to stay in Derry, Maine, calls up the remaining six, who mysteriously can’t remember much about their lives nearly three decades prior, yet aren’t too excited about journeying back to the New England town.

“Everybody wants a happy ending; everybody wants closure.” Bill (James McAvoy), now a Hollywood screenwriter, can’t seem to pen a conclusion that his coworkers like – perhaps an unsubtle reference to how this picture itself might end. Eddie (James Ransone) is now a risk analyzer; Ben (Jay Ryan) is a real estate hotshot; Beverly (Jessica Chastain) has a successful husband, but he’s abusive, suggesting that her equally abusive relationship with her father has followed her into adulthood; Richie (Bill Hader) is a stand-up comedian; and Stanley (Andy Bean) doesn’t get much of an opportunity to reveal his professional life, as he’s the only one to refuse to come back to Derry. Even Bowers (Teach Grant) returns, though he’s locked in an asylum and must break out – with some supernatural aid – in order to wreak additional havoc.

It’s immediately apparent that watching children being terrorized by an otherworldly clown was notably more appealing than now watching adults getting their turn at combating visualized fears. The opportunities for scares are still present, yet there’s something more natural and engaging when kids are the target of fantastical frights. Formerly, there was an almost Spielbergian vibe to the horror, to the intermittent senses of wonderment, which mixed adolescent humor into the dread; now, although moments of comedy are purposeful, the blend of jumps and laughs are less cohesive or prominent. At the initial dinner gathering of the Losers’ Club, audiences get to see hints of the forgotten palling around and the delicate romantic sentiments, but it’s not the same as when the actual children were involved. To their credit, the adult versions of these characters are expertly cast, and they take their parts seriously, even during the more ludicrous sequences of trepidation.

Most of the horror, however, is quite outrageous, as the seemingly unstoppable nemesis exploits specific fears – and chows down on unsuspecting children (who are always surprisingly fearless as they wander down dark, claustrophobic passageways). Utilizing endless playgrounds of creepy, atmospheric locales, Pennywise has no shortage of arenas for stalking and torment. His existence and his modes of menace never have much definition, particularly when it comes to the collecting of artifacts and an ancient ritual that might put an end to his reign of terror, as well as the “dead lights” that give him power, though the horror genre tends to get away with unexplained components far better than others; with all of its pronounced science-fiction elements, if “It Chapter Two” didn’t have so many thrills, it would probably be scrutinized considerably for its randomness (like “Silent Hill,” which reveled in weirdness for the sake of weirdness).

“We don’t have much time …” The protagonists must stop the creature quickly – but the filmmakers are in no rush to bring this second part to a close. At nearly three hours long, it dwells in unhurried setups for lengthy boo moments. Fortunately, the kid counterparts do show up, even if only for brief, periodic spurts, which remind viewers how likable the child actors from 2017’s initial chapter were; young heroes are rarer and generally more effective in horror, and this particular group (Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, and Jeremy Ray Taylor) are some of the best. It was a daring choice back in 1986 for author Stephen King to split his story between two narratives (featuring the same characters separated by decades), yet it’s a shame that this theatrical adaptation couldn’t intermix the timelines more evenly, especially since the character development was so strong in the first chapter. The adults here are intriguing, predominantly due to their toughness in the face of such daunting, exhausting tribulations, but the children were simply more entertaining.

Ultimately, the running time will likely be one of the biggest drawbacks. The unrelenting onslaught of terrorization – varied as it may be with zombies, odd old ladies, disturbing hallucinations, and all sorts of coulrophobic imagery – soon grows repetitive and drawn-out (plus, many of the exploited fears from the previous movie are reiterated here). All six main characters are given time for individualistic hauntings and bombardments by unique apprehensions, but there are only so many distorted, gory clown faces one can witness before a certain desensitization kicks in. The pattern of eerie musical cues, then silence, then a loud attack also becomes predictable. Romance, camaraderie, and coping with guilt and blame make up a fraction of the interactions, but the majority of the drama merely segues back into another shot of nightmarish visuals. It’s a long, slow build to an epic showdown that itself takes up the better part of an hour. “It Chapter Two” contains plenty of exciting, almost comically appalling stuff, but it’s heavily fortified by recurring, familiar material as well.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10