It Chapter Two
Directed by Andy Muschietti
And so we return to Derry, Maine, home to Paul Bunyan statues and second hand stores and town fairs and blood red balloons. Home to baseball games and monsters hiding under the bleachers. Home to vibrant blue skies that go on forever and bullies that are psychotic rage monsters. Home to water filled quarries and an ancient evil that likes to dress up as a Elizabethan clown. It Chapter Two is set 27 years after the events of 2017’s It. And if you remember your It mythology you know that It hibernates for 27 years and then returns to its murderous ways. Our plucky band of heroes took an oath at the end of the last chapter, promising to return if and when It rose again and, like all good promises made at the end of horror movies, it’s time to turn in that marker.
Let’s get the annoyingly obvious question out of the way first. Is It Chapter Two as good as 2017’s It? Well… nope. Me, I like the new movie. But it’s missing the terror of the first movie, the nearly oppressive horror wrapped up in small town Americana tropes. And it’s missing the simplicity of the first movie. 2017’s It was 80s Stephen King stripped down, all the detours and side plots and coke influenced weirdness removed. No turtles, no uncomfortable adolescent group sex scenes. The beauty of 2017’s It is that the filmmakers found the beating heart of a 1200 page novel and created something new and exciting out of that mix of terror of puberty, of loss, of guilt, and the rot at the soul of Americana artifice.
It Chapter Two meanders more than its predecessor. There are anti-climatic side plots. There are bizarre subplots that are obviously not clearly thought out. There’s more fat on its bones. It is long, so very long, and will test the patience of its target audience. The themes are not nearly as subtle in this chapter. And, again, it’s just not as scary as the first film. But, I like It Chapter Two, despite its flaws. I have great love for the first film, but I do enjoy It Chapter Two.
These two movies live in a place that I personally love, they share space with David Lynch films and Springsteen songs, with Pollock paintings, The Ramones, and Stephen King stories. They all share a theme, a suspicion that there is something rotten at the heart of the American Dream, that it doesn’t take much to push someone from Rockwell painting to My Lai. But enough of that. Let’s get back to what I like about It Chapter Two.
I enjoy the meandering. Sure, I wish It Chapter Two was as streamlined as the first movie. 2017’s It is like a 50s hot rod, stripped down to nothing but the essentials – frame, body, four tires, transmission and an engine. It Chapter Two is a crossover with a wifi hotspot, touch screens for everyone, and 7 backup cameras. There is an excess of, well, everything in It Chapter Two. Andy Muschietti’s team let their freak flag fly on this one. There are fortune cookies cracking open to let loose the stuff of a deadite’s nightmare. Pennywise floating down from a Paul Bunyan statue, singing while holding a couple of dozen blood red balloons, while dozens of extras soullessly sway to the rhythm. There are some amazingly weird set pieces in this movie.
And It Chapter Two is funny. It’s not a full comedy, but it is knocking on that door. It is so, so, so much funnier than the first movie. It is laugh out loud until your ribs hurt in a dark theatre funny. There are so, so many great comedy bits. One of It Chapter Two’s flaws is allowing the humour to undercut moments of horror, of pathos. There is no denying the power and weirdness of a great laugh in a movie about a child killing clown.
So, yeah. The movie is overstuffed and unwieldily. It’s meanders and takes frustrating detours. But as much as I really enjoy what Andy Muschietti does as a director and the work him and his team do to make this movie look as great as it does, its the cast that saves It Chapter Two. The casting couldn’t possibly be any better. Everyone of the adults playing the grown-up Losers looks, acts, breathes like the adult version of the kids from the first film. They perfectly sell the uneasy chemistry of friends who haven’t seen each other in decades, the way behaviours and habits of the past leach into behaviours and habits of the present. But as great as they all are, Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh is the heart of the movie, she is the soul. Her performance carries a weight and a sadness of a lifetime of denial and tiptoeing through minefields, even when facing down dodgy CGI creations. The other MVP of the film is Bill Hader as Richie Tozier. Anyone that has watched Barry knows what this guy is capable of and it is all on display here. Mr. Hader is all the flavours of awesome.
What else can I say about It Chapter Two? Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise has definitely joined the pantheon of great horror creations. We should probably stop comparing him to Tim Curry. They individually brought their strengths to one of the iconic Stephen King creations. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is top shelf, amazingly creepy and wonderful. The movie has one of my favourite running gags of the decade that culminates in a brilliant cameo.
I really enjoyed It Chapter Two. Not as much as the first one, but I did have a good time. Well, as good of a time one can have watching a movie about a child killing clown. And it looks like Andy Muschietti might not be done with Derry. I just read that he is working on cutting the two movies into one giant experience. This just might become The Lord of the Rings of Stephen King horror movies. Yeesh.