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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 character acting.

I can assure you that It: Chapter Two is a gem and worthy of its source material. Adapting It was never going to be easy an easy task, but Muschietti did it in a deft way.

Of course, there will always be moments and concepts from the book viewers will wish had made it into the final product, but that should never detract from appreciating the artistry that goes into a masterful adaptation.

More elements in the film work than don’t.

It: Chapter Two is a film that gets better with every viewing of it, and reveals even more of its layers and homages to the novel with each and every watch.

If you found yourself unsatisfied with your first watch, I’d urge you to take another look at the film — because there is much richer material than you might have originally suspected.

TAKE FOUR: TOGETHER WITH PART ONE, THIS EASILY TOPS THE LIST OF BRILLIANT KING ADAPTATIONS

By Richard Tanner

A couple years ago when they announced that they were remaking “It,” I lost my mind!  I was overjoyed that I was going to get to relive my favorite Stephen King movie.

I’ll admit that I was nervous going into this one.  I was always a bigger fan of the kid’s story.  Even in the original, I tend to zone out by the time the Loser’s leave the Chinese restaurant.  Imagine my surprise when we reach that iconic scene in the first twenty minutes and then things really jump off.

It won me over pretty quickly.  James Ransome as Eddy really helped with that.  While in the original, I didn’t care too much for Eddy Spaghetti, Ransome was my favorite almost instantly.  He’s insanely talented and out acts everyone; including stealing comedic thunder from Bill Hader.

Now don’t get me wrong… the entire cast kills it! Well almost everyone. 

I’m sad to say that they butchered my favorite character.  RIP Ben Hascom, every fat boy’s idol. Jay Ryan’s character had all of ten lines in the whole film that were half heartedly delivered… it was like the director said “oh well, he’s hot… that’s all we need!”

Hell, Brandon Crane’s cameo (the original Ben Hascom) delivered a more convincing character in 5 minutes of screen time as an architect than Ryan did with an entire movie at his disposal.

(Side Note: While everyone else will gush about Stephen King’s outstanding cameo, and it was, I will forever sing love for Brandon Crane’s.)

Despite some flaws, “It: Chapter 2” is just as amazing as part 1 and deserves to stand in the top 5 of King’s adaptations.

It’s hard for a remake to live up to a classic, but Andy Muschietti “It” should be the new bar that all remakes have to hit.

TAKE FIVE: IT MIGHT NOT FLOAT, BUT IT DOESN’T SINK

By Jack Wilhelmi

Arguably one of the most anticipated horror films of the year, It: Chapter Two pays brilliant homage to the original material and still delivers much of what horror fans expected.

Even so, its overly comedic moments knocked the wind out of the sails of many a well-crafted scare, and its reliance on jump scares and CGI was a feat that even the brilliant cast couldn’t completely save.

Since this is a deeply beloved franchise based on material direct from the mind of the master himself, Stephen King, it’s up for harsher scrutiny from many a die-hard horror fan like me. Not only that, but Chapter One was absolute, start to finish brilliance, from its flawless casting of The Losers to the performance of Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, who had tremendous shoes to fill in the role that Tim Curry arguably made solely his own in the ‘90s miniseries.

Holding the two side-by-side, it’s clear to see that Chapter Two is the weaker installment, though it’s less to do with what made the first film so magical and the material so horrifying as much as it was the poor technical decisions along the way that added chinks in seemingly impenetrable armor.

First, it’s important to consider what worked because It worked very well in a lot of ways.

The casting was picture-perfect, with a couple of the adult Losers looking like perfectly aged copies of their younger selves naturally. I was a bit surprised that Richie (Bill Hader) and Eddie (James Ransone) helmed the charge when Bill (James McAvoy) and Beverly (Jessica Chastain) always had the bigger roles to play and have meatier acting credits under their belts. But it was a pleasant, refreshing pace change.

In the miniseries and the book, the dichotomy of childhood fears transitioning to adult ones seemed to be very much a staple in tonal difference between The Losers’ first battle with It and the final battle between them. The movie showed this in a different way than I anticipated, relying less on what adults genuinely fear and shaping The Losers’ development around their lost memories instead.

This film, like the book, has a lot of heart laced with heart-stopping fear and deals with the same, over-arching themes of isolation, loneliness, friendship, being an outsider, and personal demons in both chapters of the film.

This is an area where I feel the casting is so important because all the actors really sell this and it feels like a seamless transition between their young selves and present selves. And since the film utilizes the younger cast in many flashbacks throughout, it makes for a more enjoyable experience without taking the audience out of the film. If the adult cast hadn’t been able to stand up to the talented young actors who play the young Losers, the film would have been a complete failure.

In many ways, I felt Chapter Two was a spiritual sequel to films like Stand by Me and played with my emotions more in a heartwarming way than in a terrifying one.

However, the moments of sheer brutality – such as the film’s opening sequence – won’t be lightly felt. It’s a sharp curveball to run the gamut of emotion like I did during this film; the back and forth between laughing, biting my nails, and wiping eyes that were something far from dry was possibly the only facet that saved the excessive run time.

Yes, I said excessive.

I know many people will say that Chapter Two deserved to be an epic because the book was, truly, an epic as was the miniseries. But there were moments that droned on and left me curious as to why the lengthy “personal journey” additions of each character’s solo quests were entirely necessary to the narrative.

Here, we dipped into my greatest critique of the film: where’s Pennywise?

Alexander Skarsgård did such a flawless job in the first chapter that I expected to see a much greater feature of him in the second, but many of Pennywise’s scares are done by proxy. He is the puppet master controlling all the various unsightly creatures The Losers face before the battle. And once we finally reach the ending, which should have felt a lot more terrifying than it did, Pennywise falls flat again and it was all resolved a little too quickly for my liking.

Not to mention, the final showdown culminated in an end for our villain in a way that, honestly, felt insulting and too tidy. We did have some gloriously violent moments with Pennywise, but the rest of the scares were wasted on clunky CGI when I felt the film should have, again, leaned more on Skarsgård’s talents like we saw in the first.

Hader’s pitch-perfect comedic timing saved the film in a lot of ways.

But I do question whether the film leaned a bit too heavily on comedy overall.

In my showing, many of the scares were ruined by audience laughter at inopportune moments. This could be owed to numerous reasons, part of which was that, to me, much of the film’s scarier sequences were lessened by the numerous comedic moments strewn throughout. Due to this, I suspect audiences will be confused as to how to feel, given the lines are blurred between comedy and terror.

Part of an incredible film, what truly separates it from art that falls somewhere in the middle instead of rising like cream to the top, is a clearly defined narrative by the writers and director. With a cast like this one, this would have undoubtedly been pulled off. But instead, the murkiness started to feel uncomfortable, and not in the way horror lovers tend to enjoy.

Even so, Chapter Two felt like a solid conclusion to a masterful story, and certainly holds its own amongst challengers in the same “big budget” horror category for top placing. Was I as scared as I wanted to be? No, absolutely not.

But the storytelling done by the actors and the commitment to leave nothing on the table made the journey truly enjoyable and spectacular to experience in a theater setting.

TAKE SIX: A SOLID FILM ANCHORED BY PENNYWISE PERFECTION

By Jamie Marino

I saw IT CHAPTER 2 a few days ago, and I’m not having much trouble remembering the details. 

This is definitely a good sign.  I am of the opinion that the worst sin a film can commit is not being “bad” or offensive, but being boring.

The long running time (around 2 hours and 45 minutes, but the effect of long running times is relative anyway) isn’t really a rare thing anymore.  And IT CHAPTER 2 makes up for it significantly in one essential way:  lots and lots of monsters.  Not just Pennywise, but several other ghouls, ghosts, and unnatural creatures that Pennywise creates for our nightmares.

Something must be said for filmmakers who love their creations and want them to be seen on-screen causing as much mayhem as possible.

Let’s throw some severed preschool fingers on the wall and see what sticks. 

Not all films that bounce in storytelling from childhood to adulthood depict the same characters convincingly, but IT CHAPTER 2 pulls it off masterfully.  The new adult cast has perfectly assimilated the personalities of the child actors.  They look like the children of IT PART 1 in both body and spirit, and they have irresistible chemistry.

The big headline seems to be that Bill Hader stole the show.  He was great, but I don’t agree that he stole the show.

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise dominated the movie.  The ominous presence of Pennywise was felt constantly.  It really did feel like he haunted the entire town of Derry.  I didn’t know when or where he was going to pop up next: there were very few formulaic horror moments.

It’s a felony to say I like his Pennywise more than Tim Curry’s Pennywise, but I do. 

His makeup is scarier, his costume is scarier, and even his eyes are scarier.  And he’s so much fun to watch.  No exaggeration, I would definitely pay to see the Skarsgård Pennywise read the phonebook.  Just imagine . . .

He has quickly, and deservedly, become a true horror icon.  His lack of mercy, the joy he gets from terrorizing people, and the twisted, filthy forms he takes.

And I say “bullshit” to people who criticize the use of CGI.  It embellished his terrifying visage (score, another bucket list word) and made it seem like he could be anything.  Though not the goriest thing I’ve ever seen, it didn’t pull punches.  Especially with what was done to the children.

It didn’t rock my world, but I still highly recommend seeing it, especially for the wealth of Pennywise delights.  I was also very delighted by the creepy, childlike magic of Benjamin Wallfish’s score.  My only significant complaint:  The Thing tribute.  I was begging him not to say it.  “Please don’t!  Please!”  And then he did.

Can’t win them all, right?

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