31 by 31 Challenge #1: IT: CHAPTER TWO (2019)

No one will be able to deny that It: Chapter Two is the perfect popcorn movie to kick off the fall, and perhaps even to close out the decade, but it’s not quite the well-balanced scarefest the first film turned out to be. There’s some decent scares and fun moments, yet it’s lacking the emotional depth of part one. Nevertheless, it’s a wild ride that leads to a bonkers finale even the Master of Horror himself would have to agree is a bit more fitting than the one he penned.

  • It: Chapter Two
  • Released: September 6, 2019
  • Director: Andy Muschietti
  • Screenplay: Gary Dauberman (based on the novel It by Stephen King)
  • Tagline: “It Ends”
  • Cast:
  • James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough
  • Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh
  • Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom
  • Bill Hader as Richie Tozier
  • Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon
  • James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak
  • Andy Bean as Stanley Uris
  • Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown

27 years after the self-proclaimed Losers’ Club cast the menacing, shape-shifting Pennywise the Dancing Clown down into the depths of his lair beneath Derry, the Lucky Seven have grown up and grown out, with only Mike remaining behind as the town librarian. The rest have forgotten their home and their trauma, finding success in their various fields. But when Mike summons them all back to Derry after Pennywise reawakens, the Losers are faced with a choice and a challenge to reconcile their pasts with their presents lest they be destroyed by Fear itself.

Now, for some reason I haven’t quit been able to riddle out, the film posits that in order to rise to this challenge, the Losers must confront the ghosts of their pasts one-on-one in order to collect tokens needed for an arbitrary ritual to lock Pennywise away forever. The middle chunk of the film thus becomes an episodic tour around Derry as each Loser dwells on memories of That Summer–portrayed as gauzy, ethereal flashbacks featuring the child actors from part one–before grabbing some trinket or toy that means something to them, even though half of them weren’t even introduced in the first film.

There’s not a lot of character development here, which is somewhat problematic given that we see so little of the Losers in their accomplished, adult lives before they’re thrust back into repressed trauma and childhood terror. The Losers aren’t really together a whole lot, and when they are they’re just rehashing plot points or standing by for extended flashback sequences. It’s a shame because the adult ensemble, much like their younger counterparts, are perfectly cast and absolutely ace their characters, each of them more impressive than the last, with Bill Hader being the noticeable standout.

Is Pennywise a Pierrot clown? He’s using his tongue, after all…

Though there’s a struggle to resurrect that atmosphere of a summer’s nightmare from the first film, Chapter Two does provide some intense, isolated scares while hitting the beats of horror-comedy that charmed audiences in 2017. The humor is a bit more self-aware this time around, which keeps the viewer at a distance somewhat, and there’s some moments near the end that feel off-kilter and out of place, but that’s partially a fault of the source material, so we won’t necessarily place blame for that.

We also won’t knock the film for having to live up to the near-perfect chapter one. Very few sequels can. And it should be made clear that Chapter Two is still loads of fun. For all the flashback sequences and disjointed writing, there’s no actual slow scenes or boring moments. The film moves and grooves in a digestible rhythm. You’ll be hard pressed to find a moment to look away, as everything demands your attention here. And you’re happy to give it, because it’s all just so over-the-top in the best way. The big stars, the CGI, the splatter and gore, even the jokes.

This film will always be easy to watch. It will always be an enjoyable, reliable party-pleaser when background mood needs to be established but not wallowed in. But it won’t be as beloved as Muschietti’s first outing with Pennywise and the Losers. It’s just not as serious or as scary. Beforehand we were getting into the nitty gritty of childhood trauma and terror. This time, there’s a bit more clowning around, as it were.

It: Chapter Two

  • 5 – Totally Terrifying
  • 4 – Crazy Creepy
  • 3 – Fairly Frightening
  • 2 – Slightly Scary
  • 1 – Hardly Horror

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