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It Chapter 2

In 2017 the cinematic adaptation Stephen King’s IT was released, and immediately became a bon-fide blockbuster. Though audiences still fondly recalled Tim Curry’s eerie portrayal of Pennywise in the 1990 mini-series adaptation of King’s expansive novel, Bill Skarsgard’s new iteration of the killer clown was instantly memorable, and downright demonic. The film, anchored by great performances by its young cast members Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jaeden Martell, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff, was full of and scares and laughs, and successfully brought the author’s vision to life in a way that I certainly didn’t believe possible. It tapped into the true essence of adolescent horror, and did justice to the source material.

The fears that I harbored heading into the first installment of IT came to fruition in CHAPTER 2. With a running time that approaches the three hour mark, the film centers around the group of friends known as “The Losers Club” as they head back to Derry to confront Pennywise, and their past. It had been 27 years since they found a way to band together and defeat the monster that was terrorizing their town, but in the ensuing years, their memories of the summer had faded completely. It wasn’t until each of them received a call from Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) telling them that they needed to come back that they suddenly began to recall what had happened. Unable to cope with the unexpected call, Stanley (Andy Bean) makes the permanent decision not to attend the macabre reunion. The rest of the crew, Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (the phenomenal Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan) and Eddie (James Ransone) reluctantly return to their hometown. As they all sit together at a Chinese restaurant, memories of their past come flooding back. In the beginning, they all remember the good times, but as the night rolls on, the darker aspects of that time period start coming back to them, culminating in a horrifying incident that involves mutant-spewing fortune cookies and a personalized message for the Losers.

For much of the sequel, the Losers wrestle with their ability to stay and fight, as Pennywise continues to terrorize and torture members of the community. They must confront their own pasts and the mayhem that had unfolded in 1989. The film works well in the moments in which it explores the characters as individuals, and the flashback sequences featuring the younger cast are a welcome addition. Given the bond created between the audience and the characters the first time around, I was surprised that the younger cast was not utilized more. Their appearances are fleeting and disappointingly sporadic, projecting flashes of the movie that this could have been.

Despite its daunting running time, there was still so much material that is crammed into CHAPTER 2 that it felt oddly disjointed. A subplot involving bully Henry Bowers (Teach Grant) makes absolutely no sense within the context of the movie, whether you remember him from the first installment or not. More troubling, is the creatures that King conjured up in the 80’s may have worked on the printed page, but in Andy Muschietti’s film, they fail to illicit the same sense of fear. Grotesque mutations evolve multiple times throughout the production, and while the characters are shaken to their core, I found myself growing increasingly impervious to their existence. Worse still, Pennywise, who was a constant source of underlying terror in the first chapter, doesn’t project the same level of menace this time around. Like the kids, he is isn’t utilized in a way that is advantageous to the production, and simply serves as a reminder of how much superior IT was.

The saving grace of CHAPTER 2 is its cast. This installment works the best when the characters are interacting and riffing off of one another, with Hader serving as the driving force and glue that holds them all together. Though the focal point of the plot is supposed to be the horror that is unfolding around them, it is the relationships between the Losers that serve as the standout of the story. Moments of memory, love, and loss haunt them in both past and present, yet before any of these aspects can be fully explored, computer-generated spider legs start popping out of some random nearby object. While I certainly understand that this is a horror film, and these (supposedly) frightening images are central to the scares that Mushchietti and crew are going for, they just end up being repetitive and unappealing. Failing to utilize the talents of McAvoy and Chastain is particularly egregious and bizarre, given the fact that both or two of the most versatile performers in Hollywood today. With no development with their respective characters, their plights are rendered hollow and disingenuous, which is exactly how the film itself felt from start to finish.

IT CHAPTER 2: C

Jamie Wallace