It: Chapter Two trades in the terror for more laughs

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It: Chapter Two trades in the terror for more laughs

Photo of It: Chapter 2 from Warner Bros. official website.

Photo of It: Chapter 2 from Warner Bros. official website.

Photo of It: Chapter 2 from Warner Bros. official website.

Photo of It: Chapter 2 from Warner Bros. official website.

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It: Chapter Two is the hotly anticipated sequel to 2017’s box office smash It. Both films are directed by horror veteran Andy Muschietti, and is based on the novel of the same name written by horror legend Stephen King.

King’s sprawling 1100-page novel centers around seven main characters, known as the self-proclaimed “Loser’s Club,” centered in the small town of Derry, Maine. The group of rebels and ragtags form a bond over their shared experiences of being outcasts in their schools and homes. Filling the antagonist slot is the sinister entity referred to as It. It is an entity which emerges every 27 years to prey on Derry, and takes the form of its victim’s worst fears. King’s original novel is split into two parts, respectively, telling the story of the Loser’s Club as middle schoolers, and 27 years later as adults. Muschietti split the book into two films, one covering each part. It broke several box office records, and received high praise from critics globally. Muschietti’s return for It: Chapter Two confirmed to the fans that the Loser Club’s story was not done quite yet. However, did It: Chapter Two live up to the standard set by its predecessor?

It: Chapter Two’s strong suit is certainly in its casting. Headlining the film’s cast are A-listers James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain playing Bill Denbrough, an acclaimed horror author, and Beverly Marsh, a fashion designer trapped in an abusive marriage. However, Bill Hader is a clear standout among the cast as the NYC stand-up comic Richie Tozier. Hader pulls from his comedy background to deliver several uproarious lines and scenes, but conveys emotion and character incredibly well, especially for an actor who has never been in the horror genre before. The main cast is also accompanied by the actors from It portraying the Losers as kids in flashback scenes.

The film has top-notch casting, but is brought down by a handful of glaring issues, one of which being the pacing. The movie rushes to bring the gang back to Derry, but then slows the film down in order to keep the runtime solid. If more time was spent connecting to the characters as adults, the movie would have been much stronger overall.

Another issue faced by the movie is weak writing at a few points. Muschietti is clearly a great writer, but a few points seem shaky during the movie, mainly the second act, which relies on the characters finding objects from their childhood in order to banish It. The idea of needing to collect all of a certain item or destroy all of a certain item has always been a sort of cop-out for writers, as it lets them pad the runtime and gives them more freedom to include a certain scene or a certain line that they want. The film also includes a subplot about the Losers’ childhood bully returning to terrorize them. This story thread does not lead anywhere or produce any noticeable results, and has no major effect on the story other than adding 10-15 minutes to the length.

Going along with the writing is the film’s tone, which feels very inconsistent overall. Horror is subjective, so I will not say the film is not scary, but many tense and violent scenes are quickly split with a joke or gag. One scene in particular focuses on James Ransone’s Eddie Kaspbrak beginning to overcome his fear, which is then played for laughs and gives the viewers tonal whiplash. The comedy and horror seem to switch places, as it never quite achieves the dread felt from It, but surpasses the original in comedy, which is strongly supported by Hader’s natural talent for getting laughs out of the audience.

The film is bogged down by issues, but still holds many strong qualities that keep it afloat, including Bill Skarsgård’s performance as It, most often taking the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Skarsgård does a spectacular job at feeling sinister and deceptive to the audience. The film seems to be at its best when It is just Pennywise, and not taking the form of any sort of monster or creature. Skarsgård’s performance brings the film’s tension to a peak, and he flawlessly captures the world of a deranged, evil being who preys on the innocent and terrorizes the weak.

It is incredibly difficult to make an effective villain if that villain has no rhyme or reason to their actions, but Skarsgård and Muschietti manage to do it well. Along with Skarsgård’s performance, the film is also supported by the cast’s portrayal of the Losers. While a few characters are put in the background and some do not have much arc to their story, the Losers are still played well, and all the actors have incredible chemistry with each other. One of the film’s most well-acted scenes is when the Losers reunite and have dinner together, and seeing Ben Hanscom and Mike Hanlon (played by Jay Ryan and Isaiah Mustafa) reunite at the dinner table feels like watching real old friends come back together. The cast keeps the sense of unbreakable camaraderie that is shown in It, and each character brings something different to the table. Each actor does a good job at more comedic parts, and does equally well when it comes to the horror.

Speaking of horror, it is one of the last things the film has done well. The horror scenes may be few and far between, but the horror that is present is done expertly. During the artifact collection segment of the movie, Beverly returns to her old apartment. The viewer gets an unsettling feeling from the atmosphere right when Beverly walks in, and the use of excellent camerawork and sound design leads the viewer to feel incredibly unsettled and stressed. The tension in this scene is palpable, and builds up to an incredibly well-crafted scene of pure and unabashed terror. Nevertheless, character is at the heart of It: Chapter Two, and character is done well for most of the film.

In conclusion, It: Chapter Two is brought down by a few bits of weak writing and tonal confusion, but stays strong with great character and incredibly well-done horror. It is a horror movie at heart, but is not quite there yet due to a handful of issues. 7/10

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