★★★½ | Zach Hester • @hestzach
The stakes haven’t been this high for a horror movie in a long time. The closer to horror master Stephen King’s 2017 film It wasn’t just on my must-see list for this year, but on the list of select films I thought would end up in my favorite films of 2019. In some ways, the movie did not disappoint, but over the course of its nearly 3-hour runtime, there were a few places that the movie needed work.
It Chapter Two follows the same set of “Losers” tormented by Pennywise the Dancing Clown in 1989, only now as adults, who seemingly have forgotten the events of that horrific summer they spent together. Now set in 2016, this scary sequel explores the trauma and grief that all our favorites: Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Ben (Jay Ryan), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone) and Stan (Andy Bean), have resurfaced over the course of the film, where the goal is to end “It” once and for all.
Plenty of people have said this film’s (and book’s) main theme is the exploration of both childhood trauma and imagination. On the ride home from the movie, my dad made a very good point: It Chapter Two could never be as terrifying as the original film, because we aren’t seeing the fear through the eyes of children any longer. As children, things are just scarier. That’s just a fact. The world is bigger and the somewhat irrational things we are afraid (in this case, a shapeshifting clown) have more power over us. As adults, we face different hurdles but the imaginative creatures we feared as children no longer scare us, well, at least not quote as badly. The perception of a child-eating clown is always going to be more frightening and traumatic than as an adult, and that’s why this film simply doesn’t work as well as its predecessor.
My lone other complaint was the lack of Bill Skarsgard’s horrific Pennywise during this long film. He is on screen quite a bit, but it feels like not nearly enough compared to the previous film. Every time he is on, however, it’s purely magnificent. Skarsgard once again did an excellent job with the material he was given. I just wanted more of it.
Despite all of that, It Chapter Two is still a worthy sequel. Every single one of the major characters is perfectly cast, but the standouts by far are Bill Hader as Richie Tozier and Jessica Chastain, who will hopefully FINALLY experience mainstream success, as the Beverly Marsh, the lone female member of the “Losers Club.” Hader is hilarious every time he’s onscreen. He portrays a character with a deep secret (that oddly never gets revealed to the other characters) in a sarcastic way that you can tell covers a more sensitive human beneath the mask of a stand-up comic. Chastain essentially plays an oracle that guides the plot by explaining loose ends to the characters who have not experienced “the Deadlights,” It’s true form.
Warner Brothers truly has a spooky spectacular on their hands with this franchise. Even though I knew going in to this tale there were only two parts, I can’t help but want more. Maybe in the future, we’ll get some sort of prequel, after all, Pennywise does resurface in the fictional town of Derry, Maine every 27 years. So be sure to stay away from that state, come 2046.