"It: Chapter Two" Review
Rumoured to be the bloodiest movie of all time shortly before it’s release, “It: Chapter Two” certainly does not hold back in terms of gore and uneasiness. So much so that it feels, at times, as though the movie is going more for typical horror tropes rather than building off of what made the first movie so great, and seem so original for a mainstream, big budget horror movie: the well thought out story that focuses on the characters.
However, don’t be fooled by these first impressions you may have when leaving the theater, this movie should be more than just its faults. Specifically how its villain, Pennywise, challenges the characters psychologically instead of their intelligence or ability to hide, which is what your typical horror movie seems to do.
This is in large part due to standout performances that greatly encapsulate the children versions of their character, such as those from James McAvoy (Bill), a rather human performance from Jessica Chastain (Beverly), but none close to the scene-stealing performance from Bill Hader (Richie). He’ll make you laugh your butt off when the mood seems to be shifting to something more dark, but everything he says also seems to hint at something beneath his humorous surface. In fact, “It” (1 & 2) presents the very real, and very true, important theme that childhood trauma cannot simply be forgotten, and has lasting impacts on those it occurs to.
This is presented very matter-of-factly in the first half of the film, which in my opinion is far superior than the second half. This portion has us watch the Loser’s Club (who have forgotten all of the events that happened in the first film) get back together to face off against Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) one more time thanks to Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who tells them “It” has returned, and has started killing children again.
This is when the movie is at its best, with all of the losers wandering throughout the town, remembering the events of that fateful summer, and facing their worst fears once again in order to get “tokens” they must get to defeat Pennywise, according to Mike. This sequence of events tells the audience that although these “kids” are now grown-ups, what happened to them when they were kids is still with them.
For example, Eddie (James Ransone), the germaphobe asthmatic whose mother was overprotective, goes back to the pharmacy that he went to so often to retrieve an inhaler once again. In addition to this, of course, he finds himself in a situation where he must decide between facing off against a zombie-like figure in order to save his mother or running away. This is a great entry to see how a horror movie can both provide a feeling of uneasiness to the audience, yet also give us a deep look into who these characters are.
The second half lags in the sense that, in comparison to the first film, the film seems to flip-flopping between so many different storylines and compacts so much in such little time. However, there was a lot of character depth already established to all of these characters that it seems justifiable throughout most of the latter half of the film, and that the audience can understand the impacts of many events, and all of the metaphorical final battles between all of the individual characters and Pennywise. It is also important the ever-apparent theme of the loss of innocence in all these Losers, as also seen in nearly every other coming-of-age film.
The ending of the film is satisfying in the sense that all of these characters that are now grown up have finally seemed to have grown up enough (told by the clown himself) to finally defeat this large-life, demon-like creature in perhaps the most convenient realization of (SPOILER!!!!) how to defeat Pennywise. Although, I must admit that I did not figure this tactic out myself, it still seemed preeeeetttty convenient…..but I digress.
To wrap things up, beyond the rushed feeling of the film, a convenient realization, and an uneven look at all the characters (Mike was barely delved into), this movie (along with Part 1) is incredibly well constructed in terms of character development and inter-character conflict. Let’s be real, a huge portion of that is due to the story coming from the king of horror, Stephen King. But in terms of mainstream, big budget horror, this is a welcome deviation from the typical horror movie that seems to be made simply for jump scares and gore (if you want a great example of this, watch “Truth or Dare” on Netflix).
Although “It: Chapter Two” does seem to fall victim to typical tropes at times, these are few and far between, and mostly happen in the back end of the film where the creators get into more scares, but a true horror movie cannot be completely rid of these, otherwise it would be a completely different genre. Importantly, the movie’s dedication to fully fleshing out its characters and staying true to who they are in addition to the gore allows the movie to be something beyond just that.
In the end, the very very end of the film is so incredibly satisfying by recalling a particularly devastating event that happened at the very beginning of the film, and then leaves the audience with a feeling of satisfaction when leaving the theater. It does so by reminding the audience of what it tries to say during all its movies, that there should be things you should be willing to sacrifice for your friends. This feeling of satisfaction is something I hope others feel when looking at this pair of movies as well, knowing that the horror industry is hopefully taking notice of this shift in expectations for their movies.
3 Stars. (I Wish to write with reviews of 4 stars being the highest, both in honor of Roger Ebert, but also because is there such a thing as a “Perfect” movie, or anything, for that matter?)