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It Chapter Two (2019)
Movie Reviews

It Chapter Two (2019)

The Pennywise saga concludes in a character-driven horror sequel with stellar performances and mostly adequate supernatural clown scares.

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As the title suggests, IT Chapter Two is the sequel to 2017’s blockbuster It, concluding the story first told in Stephen King’s 1986 novel. Set 27 years after the events of the previous film, the members of the Losers’ Club all grown up and leading their own lives far away from Derry, Maine, and the horrific events that bound them forever. All except one, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), the lone holdout who stayed in Derry and never forgot the oath they made as children: if the monstrous evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) ever returned, they promised to return and kill “it” once and for all.

Well, Pennywise is back and with a greater hunger than before. In this climactic finale, the Losers must unite once again to confront their deepest fears and to face Pennywise one more time.

Derry, Maine is a regular little New England town with people leading regular, normal lives. A little town with a dark and terrible secret, however. Every 27 years an evil entity appears in the form of a murderous clown called Pennywise, preying upon the town’s small children. The members of the Losers Club defeated this demonic presence in the previous film…but they didn’t kill it. Pennywise has returned and Mike Hanlon recognizes the homicidal pattern happening again. When Pennywise leaves a message for the Losers at the scene of another death, Mike calls on his childhood friends to return to Derry and fulfill the promise they made. But it’s not going to be as simple as that.

With all but one member of the Loser’s Club returning to Derry, they initially enjoy the reunion over a meal and alcohol. But their joy of reunion is short-lived when Mike reminds them why they’ve been called home. Scarred by the traumatic experience of facing Pennywise when they were children, the members of the Losers’s Club are hesitant to face the clown another time. Especially when they learn of the reason why Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) hasn’t made it to their reunion – he is dead.

With everybody fearfully abandoning the cause before it can even get started, Mike is able to convince Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) that there’s a way to defeat Pennywise. But it will take all of them. With Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain) having visions depicting certain death if they do nothing, the remaining members Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) and Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) grudgingly agreed to stay to finally end the monstrous terror once and for all. But they must first overcome their own fears if they are to defeat the monster from their childhood.

Much like its predecessor, the acting is nothing short of superb. More an ensemble than anything, the story and characters gives this  talented cast ample opportunity to showcase their talents, which goes for both the adult and child performers. More a great character drama with moments of horror than a straightforward horror movie in my opinion, It explores the friendship and loyalty between very real – and very damaged – individuals facing impossible circumstances.

While everyone gives a noteworthy performance here, standouts are Bill Hader playing comedian Richie and James Ransone as neurotic Eddie. These two have amazing onscreen chemistry and provide nearly all the best comedic moments with a strong mix of “realistic self preservation” personality traits. They see the crap situation they’re in and aren’t shy about expressing that observation. Both are realists and just want to get the hell out of Derry. But they are loyal and true to their friends until the end. These two are like a nagging married couple always at each other, creating wonderful scenes of conflict and support. They were my favorite characters in the film.

Director Andy Muschietti (It, Mama) has done a stellar job of telling a compelling story about a group of friends coming together to face a supernatural force. But it’s not the supernatural conflict that makes this movie worth watching; the story of friendship, loyalty and overcoming one’s personal fears and what it means to be human. Armed with a strong script and a magnificent cast, Muschietti has captured some fantastic performances that are really very moving. There’s even a good dose of comedy thrown in to break up the doom and gloom of having to face a supernatural killer clown.

In fact, the strong drama that explores each flawed character, like Beverly’s abusive relationship with her father that leads to her marrying an abusive man or Ben overcoming his weight problems to become a handsome, successful, lonely businessman makes this more enjoyable as a drama than a horror. When the horror elements came in I found them distracting to the humans I was invested with. I didn’t really care so much about Pennywise to be honest. The over-the-top CGI monster effects paled in comparison to the palpable emotion given by the actors. That was what had me so engaged.

Don’t get me wrong, I love supernatural horror and blood-drenched horror as much as the next guy. Maybe even more. But I just didn’t vibe with sequences involving the clown or whatever manifestation Pennywise created as much as I did just hanging with the human characters. There’s only so many times a cheap jump-scares of sped-up film editing can get my pulse racing.

Those anxious to see how this story concludes should definitely make time for IT Chapter Two, even if the thrills and chills are both a little less effective this time around. There’s some very nasty and brutal scenes there to quench your bloodlust, though it’s the heavier emphasis on the internal conflicts of the characters than the monstrous encounters that give the film its real power. Still, the anticipated finale with Pennywise definitely reminds us this is still a supernatural horror movie, and stellar performances and strong direction make this an easy recommendation for horror fans. Coulrophobics, however, should probably steer clear: remember, we all float down here.

About the Author: Christian Stirling