In the time since the first IT was released two years ago and the new one opened, I read the book. Actually, I’ve read A LOT of Stephen King during that time (he’s typically heavy in my book rotation and then I got a really good Kindle deal on his whole collection). I really enjoyed the first half with the kids, but I wasn’t as into the adult storyline for the second half (at least not much after the Chinese restaurant). I get that the first half is about a fear of growing up, but I never grasped what the rest meant. And it seemed like a cool idea to revisit these characters, but I was so unsatisfied with where it was going that I ended up mostly skimming the back half of the book. I could barely tell you anything that happened. So I was concerned going into this second film, although the AMAZING cast gave me hope.
It’s now 27 years after we left these kids in Derry in the late 80’s. The kids have left too, all except Mike Hanlon, and they’ve grown up into the lives you’d prolly expect. When strange goings on start happening in their hometown, Mike calls them back one by one. Except none of them seem to remember anything about their childhoods. Once they’re reunited, the memories come flooding back, along with the fear and strange goings on.
If you’ve ever talked to me about Stephen King, the one thing I almost certainly said was that the key to his stories is the characters. I prolly even went into detail about why I love Pet Sematary as an illustration of why his characters are the most important element to his work. His films have been hit or miss, but the ones that focus on character relationships and development tends to be the better ones, and then the horror just falls into place. If the film focuses too much on the horror, it misses the point and the whole thing falls flat (or in the case of The Shining, does make a pretty good horror but is fundamentally a whole different entity, at least one with a different intent and meaning). I feel like IT: Chapter Two was one of those that just got it. It knew that the characters were what you should focus on, and it gave them all the focus and attention they deserved.
Now I get why this film is getting such mixed reviews and criticism, and a lot of it goes right back down to characters vs scares. I loved spending time with each character as they dove back into their history and faced off with Pennywise individually one by one. I was so invested in seeing what their formative memories were and how that manifested into their fears. However, audiences who were just in it for the scares found that whole section overly long and repetitive. I get that. But for me, this was the substance I always feel is lacking in a horror.
The scares themselves left something to be desired. I was literally counting down five seconds to every jump scare. I liked the idea behind each manifestation of Pennywise and they looked amazing from a creativity standpoint, but the execution was a little lazy and overly CGI-ed. The final battle went on a bit too long without anything too interesting happening. I felt like the filmmakers were trying to hard to get this element right instead of just trusting it to work out since they had such a solid foundation with the character work (is there another word I can use besides “character”? I’m getting sick of it)
The other element that this film got right was the casting. People were clamoring for Jessica Chastain to take on Bev and she fit in perfectly. James McAvoy was another inspired choice. However the two of their characters (McAvoy’s in particular) just aren’t that exciting here. They’re meant to be the leaders and the anchors so while they were played beautifully, it was all meeting the very high bar they were set for.
The scene stealer for me was Bill Hader as Richie Tozier (taking over for Finn Wolfhard). Richie is my favorite character in every iteration of this story, and Hader managed to elevate him even further. I’m always gonna like the comic relief, but he was also written with the strongest arc and Hader expertly played every beat. He’s why I couldn’t stop thinking about this film the next day.
Oh and it goes without saying that the other Bill, Skarsgard killed it once again as Pennywise. His expression and physicality are unreal, it’s a shame that the filmmakers felt the need to use so much CGI on him. He could have brought the scares all by himself.
Ultimately how you feel about this film is gonna come down to what you want out of it. Are you just in it for the thrills? You’re gonna be disappointed. Or do you want a horror story that goes a little deeper, almost making you forget about the horror? That’s what you’re gonna find down in the sewers with Pennywise.
IT Chapter Two – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n