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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

By Patrick Krause

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.

TAKE TWO: PITCH PERFECT PACING, CASTING AND CHEMISTRY

By Todd Reed

Unlike most of my fellow moviegoers, I was a little underwhelmed with It: Chapter One.

While I loved the coming of age storyline (reminiscent of my favorite Stephen King adaptation, Stand By Me), I was unhappy with many of the changes. And I felt like Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) was too much of a presence and not allowed to really build as a menacing presence before going over-the-top on the special effects (much of the same problem I had with director Andy Muschietti’s feature length adaptation of Mama).

So I entered Chapter Two with diminished expectations, especially with the early mixed reviews that were coming out.

However, It: Chapter Two more than exceeded my hopes for the film and is a brilliant ending to one of my favorite Stephen King books.

Muschietti does a much better job here doling out Pennywise until we get to the end. In the book, Pennywise appears as what the characters fear the most — not always as a clown. I loved that we get his back in the second chapter.

The casting for the film is beyond brilliant. While the child actors in the first film (also perfect casting) are back, Chapter Two focuses on the adult characters.

They return to Derry after twenty-seven years, with no memories of what came before until they get a call from Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one of the Losers Club who stayed in Derry and remembers what came before. Pennywise has returned, and he wants revenge on the people who hurt him.

Jay Ryan is the now skinny and handsome architect Ben Hascomb. James Ransone is Eddie Kaspbrak. Andy Bean plays adult Stanley Uris. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy portray Beverly Marsh and Bill Denbrough. Rounding out the Losers is Bill Hader, who gives a hilarious and heartbreaking turn as Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier.

Each actor in turn, gets to showcase their skills as they must face their childhood fears to find a token that is needed for a ritual to help destroy Pennywise once and for all.

It is then that the Losers are truly brought together again, and the movie really shines.

While the book always felt like the story was more about the Bill, Beverly and Ben triangle, It: Chapter Two definitely showcases the character growth of Richie and Eddie, as they both confront their fears and emotional breaking points to become central in the final battle.

While Hader has been getting so much well-deserved praise, James Ransome’s amazing performance as Eddie should not be overlooked.

While I’ve read many comments about It: Chapter Two being overlong (runtime is nearly 2 hours and 50 minutes), I can honestly say it never felt that long to me (my bladder may disagree). In fact, when it became obvious we were closing in on the final sequence, I glanced at my watch thinking it was happening way too soon.

The movie is very well-paced and does a great job of using humor to balance the horror.

My one complaint about the film would be that this film felt much more CGI heavy than the first chapter. I would have loved to have seen more practical effects. But honestly, that’s nitpicking what is easily one of my favorite movies I’ve seen this year.

While Bill Skarsgard will never be “my” Pennywise (Tim Curry is too perfect), It: Chapter Two is a near perfect ending to Stephen King’s (who also has a hilarious cameo) seminal work.

TAKE THREE: WITH SO MUCH HEART, IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO LOVE

By Jamie Alvey

Andy Muschietti’s continuation of the story of the Losers Club manages to capture the humor, heart, and horror of King’s spectacular horror epic.

It: Chapter Two remains faithful to the spirit of the book and to King’s oeuvre as a whole. In this installment, we meet the Losers Club as adults who are still coping with the mental scars from their troubled childhoods in Derry and their battle with It. Though they have forgotten much of what happened to them the anguish remains. The only one who fully remembers all the bullying, the grief, and the heartbreak is Mike Hanlon, who stayed behind in Derry to research Its origins and await Its inevitable return.

There is a lot to love and to praise about this film and to overindulge one in specific details involving the plot would spoil the experience of Chapter Two altogether.

It’s obvious that the director, actors, and creative team loved the source material and what they were doing and thus brought a sense of justice to it. It’s a perfect companion to the first film, and manages to capture all the sheer awkwardness and pain of being an adult coping with trauma inflicted in childhood.

It’s a triumphant mélange of love, wit, and scares that leaves you feeling enveloped and warm. It’s emotionally heavy, but that heaviness brings a realness with it and gives way to the power of unconditional love and friendship. Chapter Two has a lot to say about the family that we choose and overcoming your past and owning who you are and who you have been. It’s a beautiful synthesis of the themes from the book and the Chapter One.

It can be safely said that Andy Muschietti put a great deal of his heart on the line with this ambitious follow up.

In the end, it pays off greatly and shows that Muschietti is unafraid to take risks. He knows the source material and the characters, and that shines through. He’s a King and a horror fan who made a film with King and horror fans in mind — and managed to achieve a broader appeal with general audiences all at the same time.

It’s miraculous that he pulled off a nearly impossible feat twice now. Muschietti’s future capabilities should not be questioned when it comes to him as a director and a creator in general. It would be nice to see him return to the King multiverse, since he is so adept at managing to translate King’s unique voice and sense of humor to the screen. He even mirrors the feeling of time being unmoored that the book does with the past slipping effortlessly into the present.

The cast is extremely exceptional.

The adult stars’ performances feel like a natural extension of the children’s. You can see that their take on the characters is entirely grounded in how the children portrayed them in the first, and it creates an almost eerie feeling like you’re watching two versions of the same person existing at the same time instead of simply watching two different people play one character.

Jessica Chastain’s acting style complements Sophia Lillis’s in such a hypnotic and beautiful way. It’s a masterclass in acting and makes their shared performance as Beverly one of the most affecting for the viewer.

Jay Ryan dutifully takes over as Ben from Jeremy Ray Taylor and manages to encapsulate all the character’s loving and gentle nature. Ryan and Taylor’s performances are soft in the best way.

Bill Hader brings not only his comedic sensibilities to Richie but a great deal of emotional heft, which is not an easy feat. He and Finn Wolfhard show a deep understanding of a character who uses humor to mask his pain and troubled mind.

James Ransone’s ability to not just simply emulate Jack Dylan Grazer’s young Eddie but to become Eddie as an adult is brilliant, if not a little disconcerting that they aren’t the same person.

Isaiah Mustafa steps into the role of Mike with ease and does a great job of continuing Chosen Jacob’s quiet and haunted performance. Mustafa shows that there is much more to Mike than meets the eye making him much more than just the one who stayed.

James McAvoy’s Bill is every bit as rich as young Jaeden Martell’s and it is quite the treat to see the two act alongside one another in an emotionally wrought and memorable scene.

Andy Bean and Wyatt Oleff are masterful in the fact they make the most impact with their little screen time. I can say that I wish that I could have seen more of Stan as an adult from what little was shown.

Bill Skarsgård gives his all as Pennywise.

He throws so much of himself into the character that, as an actor myself, watching him is both awe inspiring and physically exhausting. The best performances leave me feeling somewhat drained and exuberant, and It: Chapter Two is literally stuffed at the seams with them.

I could spend an entire piece in and of itself writing about the performances. There’s not one bad performance in this movie, and that is truly something to be proud of. Not to mention Stephen King’s stellar cameo is a genius piece of cha