10:00 am EDT, September 7, 2019

‘It Chapter 2’ movie review: A massive carnival house of horrors

It Chapter 2 concludes the saga of director Andy Muschietti’s 2017 original as The Losers’ Club reunites after 27 years to defeat the demonic Pennywise once and for all.

While the original It has its many fans, critiques of the movie included it relying too heavily on jump scares and leaning too far into humor when things weren’t popping out at the audience. Those critiques remain the same for It Chapter 2 — all 2 hours and 49 minutes of it — but I don’t think a lack of scares is necessarily a detriment to either installment.

This story, as much as it is about a demonic child-eating clown named Pennywise, is largely about the camaraderie between a group of young misfits (now adults) called The Losers’ Club, and a tone of childlike nostalgia and heartfelt pathos carries through both movies, and that’s what I think is most important.

It’s been 27 years since we’ve seen Bill (Jaeden Martell), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff). We’re thrust back into the small town of Derry with a gruesome hate crime that leads us to the terrifying realization that It is, indeed, back. Adult Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only Loser to not leave Derry, discovers this and, keeping true to their oath at the end of the first movie, he calls on the rest of the crew to return to finish what they started.

With each phone call, we learn of the whereabouts of each character, now as adults. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is successful but stuck in an abusive relationship with her husband and business partner; Bill (James McAvoy) is an actor and novelist living in Los Angeles; Ben (Jay Ryan) is what appears to be an architect and has undergone quite the transformation; Eddie (James Ransone), on the other hand, looks exactly the same and works as a risk analyst; Richie (Bill Hader) is a stand-up comedian; and then Stanley (Andy Bean) we unfortunately don’t get the chance to learn much about before he’s taken too soon.

The rest of The Losers’ Club end up making it back to Derry and meet at a Chinese restaurant for a reunion meal. Before they get down to the serious business, they take a moment to really enjoy being back in each other’s company, and it actually is one of the movie’s best scenes. Things, of course, turn dark rather quickly, but there’s always a momentum of levity throughout, and that’s largely thanks to Bill Hader.

It’s rather remarkable at tone juggling and goes back to that argument of the It movies not being that scary, but again I would argue that it’s more about keeping up with a sense of childlike wonder, and now with these characters as adults, it turns to sarcastic wit. I welcome the humor found in these movies because there’s also plenty of terror to be found.

with the first It, and especially with this massively sized sequel, the experience of watching them is like walking through a haunted house. More often than not, when ghosts and goblins aren’t popping out with a loud noise, you’re laughing along. I would sum it up in the visual of Pennywise dancing; it’s both horrifying and absolutely hilarious.

Okay, back to the serious stuff. The Losers all realize just exactly the level of pure fear they felt upon receiving the call from Mike, knowing what the call meant, and knowing Pennywise was striking that fear back into their hearts, the same fear he inflicted on them as children. After some panic and reluctance, Mike convinces the gang that, in order to defeat It, they must perform a ritual all together. If they don’t, not only will It keep killing, they will all die, too.

The bulk of It Chapter 2‘s running time is spent following each character as they revisit the moments from that summer 27 years ago that weren’t spent together. In those memories, they must uncover an “artifact” that will be used to kill Pennywise. Basically, Pennywise is Voldemort, and the Losers are looking for the Horcruxes to destroy him. These sequences go one after the other, and the structure of these sequences does get a bit repetitive with the jump scares followed by It turning into some other demonic form other than a clown.

The most memorable of these sequences is the one featured in the trailer, where Beverly visits her dad’s old apartment and comes across a creepy old granny who’s definitely much more sinister than she appears at first. When she’s doing her little jig in the nude? Hilarious. And horrifying. (You see what I mean.)

I like both It and It Chapter 2. They’re not great, and they’re far from perfect, but I like the mythology of It, and I like what Andy Muschietti has been able to explore with his version of it. The richer themes from Stephen King’s novel (watch out for a cameo!) have probably hardly been plumbed much beyond the surface, but there are undercurrents of not being afraid of change, never losing sight of who you really are and letting go of past regrets.

Though It Chapter 2 sags in the middle, anytime Bill Skarsgard shows up as Pennywise, drooling, giggling and sneering with crazed, hungry eyes, the movie comes to life. And once the climax finally arrives, it is a surprisingly moving eruption of catharsis, and you end up really feeling the weight of this total five-hour journey.

It’s also simply exciting that a brash, uncompromising, freaky and weird big budget studio horror movie like this exists. As an added bonus, here is a movie that has an opening scene starring a gay couple and includes Bill Hader (who’s also playing a gay character) telling Pennywise the clown that he’s a “sloppy b*tch.”

‘It Chapter 2’ is now in theaters

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