Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.
Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is back. This time he’s really, really angry. He has had time to stew on things as IT CHAPTER 2 picks up 27 years after the first film. While most of the kids from the Loser’s Club have moved out of Derry, Maine, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa/Chosen Jacobs) has remained. Haunted by the events of the past, he keeps ever vigilant for IT’s possible return. When mysterious disappearances begin occurring once again, Mike reaches out to his childhood friends to remind them of their promise to return to kill IT once and for all. I am happy to report that IT Chapter 2 is a worthy sequel to the first film, and in some ways even better. Bigger risks are taken, the violence is more unhinged and effective, scenes get more abstract and dreamlike, and it carries a surprising emotional weight.
The film deftly jumps from present to past and back again thanks to a nimble script by Gary Dauberman and clear direction from Andy Muschietti. This necessitates employing the younger performers from the first film along with a new ensemble of expertly cast adult actors. The effect is consistency in character that adds a unique gravitas to the collective performances.
We are first reintroduced to all of the Losers as they get the fateful call that pulls them back to their painful childhoods in Derry and the film begins. All but one of the Losers immediately hop onto planes and return home with the exception of Stanley (Andy Bean/Wyatt Oleff). Once back, the Losers meet for dinner at the Jade of the Orient. Each of the losers arrives and sizes one another up in their own way. Beverly (Jessica Chastain/Sophia Lillis), Bill (James McAvoy/Jaeden Martell) Richie (Bill Hader/Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (James Ransone /Jack Dylan Grazer), and Ben (Jay Ryan/Jeremy Ray Taylor) sit at a round table, reconnecting until a lingering feeling of dread takes hold again. As they all slowly recall the evil they faced 27 years before, Mike attempts to convince them that it is their obligation to stay, confront the evil, and defeat it for good. The initial response is to run, screaming into the night and never look back. After a bit of convincing, they all realize that the only way to fight fear is to confront it.
Dauberman’s script goes to great pains to include the rich mythos of IT as an ancient, cosmic creature that has tormented the area for hundreds of years without sacrificing narrative momentum. The film even goes so far as to touch on the local Native Americans tactics in facing off with the creature and how that could help the Losers.
Saddled with their marching orders, each adult Loser heads off to seek a “token” to be used in a ritual that will destroy IT for good. As this plays out, Pennywise lets the Losers know he is aware they have returned. This leads to one particularly effective scene of Beverly returning to her childhood home only to be subject to increasingly creepy hospitality by the apartment’s current resident Mrs. Kersh (a scene-stealing Joan Gregson). The interesting thing here is that, as the adults return home and memories flood back, Pennywise isn’t the only monster haunting them. Painful memories of rejection, bullying, and loneliness return seen in intercut flashbacks. Jason Ballantine‘s deft editing connects the past and present giving long-dormant demons the same bite as any shape-shifting monster.
We would be remiss though if we did not give focus to Skarsgård‘s return as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Gone is the meticulous, measured stalking of his victims. Being defeated 27 years prior has given him less patience for the chase that seasons the meat. Here Skarsgård is allowed to become much more savage and unhinged in his pursuit to feed then go dormant again.
Speaking of the performances, all of the younger versions of the Losers are just as effective here. Somehow though, their performances give a powerful emotional weight to their older counterparts. McAvoy, Bean, Chastain, Ransone, Mustafa, and Ryan all do fine work here but it is Hader that stands out. His Ritchie is one who has turned his humor into his means of financial survival. Always ready with a razor-sharp comment, it is he that maintains levity in the scarier moments without becoming the “one-liner” guy. His is also the story with the most emotional arc as the humourous façade cracks and we see his inner turmoil.
In regards to the production, there is a far more colorful look. Checco Varese‘s lensing delivers vibrant, eye-popping colors that make the action feel more present. Interesting too is the use of sound. Pay attention to when IT is nearby, the subtle use of a growl sparks unease without really shouting, “DANGER!”
Of course, we know that IT ends. That is clearly stated on the poster and promotional materials so don’t @ me for dropping any spoilers. What is remarkable is the way Dauberman’s script and Muschietti’s direction take a celebrated 1000+page novel that contains multiple points of view, various timelines, and occasional controversial scenes and they turn it into a coherent narrative. The real monster is not Pennywise, but past trauma. This along with the message that, if left unconfronted, the haunting pain of the past will dictate the future. It’s just that, for the Losers, they had to fight a shape-shifting being that took the form of their worst fears.
It Chapter 2 is the best horror movie of the year so far on a small list of phenomenal horror movies. Standing on the success of the first chapter, Muschietti and Dauberman were allowed here to take more risks by getting grittier and nastier. They also trust the audience to follow along in more surreal moments toward the end of the film allowing the layered tones of the original novel to shine. You can rest easy, dear readers. We now have a great film version of IT. Now, how about that new adaptation of Salem’s Lot?
|It Chapter 2|