It Chapter Two premieres this week in theaters around the country.
Can it really be fall already? Where has the summer movie season gone? The year seems to be picking up speed and we’ll be to awards time before we know it. However, first we hit the fall… otherwise known as the period of Halloween, good horror films… and very little else. The period starts with a bang this week as the much anticipated follow-up to the popular cinematic reimagining of Stephen King’s classic novel It in 2017. Here’s what you need to know before checking out It Chapter Two.
The movie tells the second half of Stephen King’s story as the now-adult Losers Club reunites to take on the terrifying and demonic specter only known as It. The film brings together an all-star cast featuring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James Ransone, and Isaiah Mustafa. Andy Muschietti directs the feature from a script by Gary Dauberman.
Ultimately, a horror movie has one job: to scare the audience. Now, full disclosure… I’m terrified of clowns. So, it isn’t a huge leap to say that this story more than does its job for yours truly. Anyone familiar with the original novel knows the ending and the film is aware of this definite challenge. Muschietti crafts a tense and frightening narrative. There’s plenty there for all horror aficionados: jump scares, gore horror, clown based terror… It is all there.
In fact, part of It Chapter Two‘s struggle in actuality serves as a strength from one perspective. Clocking in at more than two hours and forty minutes, it is a heck of a long sit. As the second act gets going, the tension, unease, and horror which Muschietti weaves into the film come at an almost frenetic pace. There are some moments of welcomed brevity, however there are very few instances when the tone truly lightens up. As such, the movie feels like an unrelenting, almost unpleasant sit at times. This is a work of horror after all.
However, It Chapter Two’s attempts to inject humor gel smoothly with the narrative, allowing the audience something to hold on to in the darkness. Particularly entertaining is the repeated insistence that (now) screenwriter Bill (McAvoy) can’t write an ending to save his life (sound familiar?). The repeated jabs at the character (which come from all sides) feel to be winking at the audience. Fans of the novel (or the 1990 TV special for that matter) will know the… struggle… with the ending to this particular story, and it’s been speculated how this film would handle it, especially since word came that a second installment was coming. It feels particularly fitting to have the criticism coming from Stephen King in an entertaining, act two cameo.
Meanwhile, the movie has the unenviable challenge of filling the shoes of the youngsters who carried the first installment. While the troop of talented juveniles return for the second part, the brunt of the work now falls to their adult counterparts who are each examples of flawless Hollywood casting.
James Ransone, in particular, is spot-on in playing the fragile, hypochondriac Eddie (portrayed in a star-making turn in the first movie by Jack Dylan Grazer). While Ransone is not a newcomer to Hollywood, his climb to stardom has been a gradual one, taking him through television and independent cinema before finally hitting blockbuster territory with his role in It Chapter Two. Not only does Ransone bear an uncanny resemblance to Grazer, but he easily conveys the inherent struggle within Eddie. He’s great in the quiet moments, easily able to show the fragility within Eddie. However, he’s a solid comedian, easily keeping pace with Bill Hader’s quick timing.
The film runs into some challenges with the unique structure of this story as it relates to the character development surrounding the older losers. While these are all the same people we know and love, they’re 27 years removed from their Derry childhood. As such, they each have entire lives and struggles which haven’t been on-screen. They’re different people, and it very much feels that way. The 1990 television mini-series largely avoids this by telling concurrent narratives. While the audience is getting to know the children, they’re getting to know the adults. However, as the opening frames of It Chapter Two play out, the story feels somehow isolated from the first feature.
It feels necessary to re-introduce these characters and get a feel for the people they’ve become; however, the narrative drops in at such a pace, there’s really not the time. Stanley and Beverly in particular struggle under this pressure. Stanley was noticeably under-utilized in the first movie, taking a back seat to the other kids in the script. His fate happens very early in this film. To contrast, in the 1990 version, it happens midway through, giving the audience half the story to get to know him. With the way the current story is constructed, it doesn’t pack the same emotional punch because there hasn’t been the opportunity to learn who he is. So, as the 2019 version continues and Stanley fills his true purpose— as a plot device to emotionally motivate the others— it feels shallow in the grand scheme of things.
As the action gets going, we see the characters going through their daily lives: Bill is a writer, Eddie is a risk analyst and Ben (Jay Ryan) is an architect. The script makes a noted cut to Beverly’s storyline, not introducing her through her fashion line (as in the 1990 mini-series) but in her house. We are only told later (through Eddie) that Beverly is now a popular designer. The change feels decidedly disingenuous to Bev as a character. In the 1990 version, the events give her a different face and allowed the story to explore her ability to compartmentalize trauma. In this take on the story, it actually takes depth away from her, reducing her identity to that as only a victim of abuse. As such, It Chapter Two ends up being a film that manages to be both a lengthy 2 hours and 40 minutes, but somehow still needs to be longer in order to do justice to these amazing characters. All things being said, this isn’t a bad problem to have.
In a Hollywood industry that keeps hitting a home run with each attempt at horror, It Chapter Two is not only another solid entry, but a fitting end to the franchise. Well-crafted scares and fitting performances contribute to the movie’s success, making one wish there was even more content in this lengthy film. Fans of King, the franchise, and horror in general should make sure they check this one out.