Like most horror fans, we couldn’t wait to see “It: Chapter Two”, and several of our writers returned to recount the highs and lows of this massive sequel.
Intro by Angry Princess (Editor-in-Chief)
I’ve come to expect two things from highly anticipated, big budget theatrical horror releases: lots of passionate discourse and lots of passionate disagreement. The bigger the hype, the bigger the stakes — and the more people are prone to disappointment if a film doesn’t live up to their expectations.
When plans to revive Stephen King’s IT were announced in 2017, fans were first outraged (how dare they try to fill the giant clown shoes left behind by the legendary Tim Curry) and then, thanks to some pretty stellar marketing, intrigued. The new interpretation of the literary horror classic arrived 27 years after the novel first came to life in the form of an ABC special. And King fans were eager to note that timeline coincided perfectly with the length of time Pennywise the Clown lies dormant in the novel before returning to terrorize the poor town of Derry.
While many horror fans and King devotees were hopeful the beloved property would be treated with the reverence it deserved, no one really knew what to expect when a new crop of relatively unknown Losers showed up on the big screen to do battle with a non-Curry clown.
There’s no need to rehash what happened next, as we all know what a phenomenal success IT (2017) was — both financially and critically.
Of course, this set the stage for massive Chapter Two anticipation and expectation. It started with rampant fancasting as we all tried to guess who might join the cast of grown up Losers. When the real cast was finally announced, and we all realized just how pitch perfect most of the choices seemed, anticipation reached a fever pitch.
With Muschietti once again helming the ship, Skarsgard returning as Pennywise (along with the talented cast of young Losers), and a new cast of A-list actors joining in on the action, IT: CHAPTER TWO seemed like a recipe for perfection. And if we’re talking about box office bank, there’s no doubt that the film is an undeniable home run. However, fan reaction was far more divided this time around.
With so much to obsessively love and incessantly complain about with this film, it’s ripe for another set of Morbid Minis — where several members of the diverse Morbidly Beautiful writing team share their thoughts and takeaways. Read what we think works exceptionally well and where we think the film fell flat. And see if the nearly three-hour return trip to Derry is one worth making.
TAKE ONE: AN IMPERFECT BUT DEEPLY SATISFYING SEQUEL
Two years after director Andy Muschietti delivered what would become the most commercially successful horror movie, IT, to theaters; he returns with the final tale of the Losers Club and their battle with Pennywise the murderous clown in IT: CHAPTER TWO.
There were high expectations for the sequel after IT (2017) was such a huge box office and critical success. Joining Muschietti and Pennywise actor Bill Skarsgard are some of the top actors in the business, including James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader among others.
Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise deep in the sewers beneath Derry, Pennywise has awoken from his hibernation to once again snatch and kill the children and marginalized people of Derry. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) is the lone Loser remaining in Derry.
In the years since Pennywise’s defeat, he has gathered a history of Derry and of Pennywise’s influence on the people who live there. Mike also acts as a lonely watchman, ensuring that when Pennywise returns the rest of the Losers are called back to Derry to fulfill their oath to finally destroy the child-killing monster.
As a fan of the novel and the television mini-series starring Tim Curry (1990), it was hard not to judge some of the story decisions based on comparisons to the source material.
For a movie that runs nearly three hours long, IT: CHAPTER TWO feels like it’s lacking important story elements, while also being packed full of Pennywise-created monstrosities and full completed character arcs of the Losers Club. CHAPTER TWO is both overflowing with story and ideas, while allowing some story threads to remain open, leaving you wanting more.
The first thirty minutes of IT: CHAPTER TWO seem rushed and clunky.
After the re-introduction to Derry and Pennywise, Mike begins to recruit his friends back to Derry. Instead of taking time to really dig into the lives of the adult Losers Club, they are rushed back to Derry, so the story can move quickly to their battle with Pennywise. The introduction to the adult Losers Club is so perfunctory and slight that it’s barely worth having at all.
Much like the opening scene showing the beating and murder of a gay man in Derry, it seems to be there “because it’s in the book.” But maybe the most infuriating and empty storyline involves Richie. Not because of what is introduced, but how insignificant it all means in the grander scheme of the movie. Richie, as a character in CHAPTER TWO, deserved a better story and closure than what he and we the audience got.
When all the major players are in Derry, the movie shifts into a higher gear.
CHAPTER TWO doesn’t have the frightening jump out of your chair scares of the first movie, but it has a creeping dread to it.
Hiding sinisterly behind that dread are some creature lunacies not normally seen in a mainstream horror movie. Muschietti makes many audacious decisions. And when CHAPTER TWO goes weird, it goes really weird — even throwing down a homage to John Carpenter’s THE THING at one point.
Muschietti brilliantly balances the terrifying, the repulsive, the humorous, and the strange as Pennywise torments Derry and the Losers Club. It’s a horror funhouse playing out on the screen. And while no particular scare may make you jump, there’s enough nightmare juice on display to disturb the most hardened horror fan.
Of note, CHAPTER TWO contains a Georgie-like seduction scene with Pennywise that is difficult to watch. This scene plays out more effectively than the scene with Georgie in IT and ends more tragically. There’s no jump scare, no over reliance on special effects, just an amazing piece of acting by Bill Skarsgard.
Among all the scenes of mayhem, spraying blood, and creations that are not of this world, this one scene between Pennywise and a child may be the scariest and most effective of CHAPTER TWO.
One of the biggest questions going into the sequel was the casting of the adult Losers.
The kids had such great chemistry it seemed it might be hard to match for their adult counterparts. The adult cast rises to the occasion again and again. They have fantastic chemistry, and it’s a nearly seamless transition between the child actors and the adults.
The standouts, as have been noted widely online, are Bill Hader as Richie and James Ransone as Eddie. Both actors completely disappear into the roles and give startling performances that eerily replicate Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer’s in the first film. For me however, the standout in CHAPTER TWO is Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon. Mustafa gives a manic and inspired performance that gives some depth to Mike’s character that was missing from the first movie.
My issues with the sequel are relatively minor when compared to the overall quality of the movie.
CHAPTER TWO doesn’t quite live up to the brilliance of IT, but is a monumental achievement in its own right. It’s a revelation that horror fans have a triumph like the IT movies to see in theaters and debate over. The new movies don’t negate the 1990 miniseries but are a compliment to that series.
With the novel, the series, and the new movies, it’s assured that I and countless other horror fans will return to Derry and the IT universe again and again.