I didn’t put this film on my 5 most anticipated list, however, if I were to include more numbers, It Chapter Two would be number 6. I’ve already talked about this horror renaissance moment cinema is experiencing, but the success of the genre came from films with relatively small budgets, it would take a big-budget horror to prove the genre’s sudden interest wasn’t a fluke. We got that in the form of It. When the film was released, it took popular culture by storm, admittedly it did ride on the waves of nostalgia for the mini-series, but by the end, it had become its own thing. By those standards, It Chapter Two had a lot to live up to by this time making the adults as interesting as their younger counterparts. While the film is, I’m sorry to say, the weaker of the two, I can still see it as a satisfying conclusion.
I’ll try not to repeat myself from my review of It, but I must start by saying Bill Skarsgård has done some remarkable work over these two films. It was easy to prefer Tim Curry’s version of Pennywise after the first It, but now seeing how more comfortable he is with the role, I’m not so sure anymore. You can feel that it’s gloves off between Pennywise and The Losers Club, the character is more ruthless and manipulative so he can make the Losers feel more hopeless.
So, what of the adult Losers Club? Well for one if it were based on only looks, you can’t get more perfect casting. If you were to get the child actors and the adult actors together side by side, you would think they were the same person. While the talent is across the board great, the Richie character still steals the show, only this time played by Bill Hader. His evolution over time is predictable but natural, in his adult age he is a successful stand-up comedian which considering his show-stealing, crude humor feels like the only step to take. Bill Hader’s comedic form is fantastic but when he brings out the heavier, emotional side to Richie, it’s a remarkable show of talent.
The vast possibilities of Pennywise scares are addictive to think about, but in It Chapter Two it seems the nature of the scares has completely changed. In the first It, there was a lot of effort put into the build-up and suspense of a scare, hence why the visual of a single red balloon has now become an iconic horror image. However, whilst suspense is used once or twice in Chapter Two, the film banks more of its money into what I can only describe as shock horror. By letting a disturbing image work on its own with no assistance from any suspenseful element, the film hopes to enlarge the presence of Pennywise. Also, nearly every scare is wrapped up by a character making some sort of quip or punchline, making the scares aftershock non-existant. But I will admit, when shock actual works in the film, it works brilliantly.
Seeing as the expectations of It Chapter Two were sky-high, it wasn’t a longshot to think this adult chapter of It, much like the mini-series, would be the inferior part of the story. Even after reading the book, I still felt that the story was going into bizarre places, places that felt too jarring from what I was watching/reading. Case in point, The Ritual of Chüd. Any Stephen King fan knew this was coming and it was the one part of the story where I was stuck on thinking how they can incorporate it into the angle the previous film had already set.
I later realized the anomaly with the ritual and It Chapter Two generally. It is the job of the screenwriter to know what moments fit and don’t fit in the story you’re trying to tell; the job of the director is to compromise and find ways in which the more jarring moments translate well to the audience. Some moments though are uncompromisable, that word doesn’t exist in It Chapter Two is full of moments that could have easily been cut. I understand the necessity and deeper details of The Ritual of Chüd because I’ve read the book, but to someone who’s knowledge of It stems from these films alone, the ritual is a big departure from what has come before.
A big criticism of It was how tonally all over the place it was. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big enough deal to warrant criticism because of how well the characters compensated for it. However, whatever glaring problems the tone had in the first film are still apparent in Chapter Two and this time, they couldn’t be ignored. There is music where there shouldn’t be music, there’s gory scenes, PG horror scenes, and time mismanagement thanks to a myriad of flashbacks that act more like jigsaw pieces (admittedly they are cut very well). The pacing at the start doesn’t fare well either, the film doesn’t give us enough detail about what has happened to each character since the events of the first film, there are only glimpses.
I’ve heard other critics say that the almost three-hour runtime of It Chapter Two can be felt, I didn’t feel that way because, despite the mass amount of problems I have with the film, I still felt satisfied that I was watching a conclusion to something that was done with a passion for the novel. If great characters and great performances aren’t enough to convince you to give It Chapter Two attention, I don’t know what will. I’m still not sure though what purpose this film is trying to serve. It’s a film about memory and fighting the past, but at times it behaves like a gap filler.
Nevertheless, although it’s disappointing in the sense it can’t live up to its 2017 predecessor, I can still at least that I left thinking of the positive effect these films have had on the horror genre.
Final Result: 6/10 – Above Average
Have you seen It Chapter Two? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Downton Abbey